The amendment was not supported and the bill has been passed through the council. It has now passed both houses and will be referred to the Governor for royal assent.
Here’s what that means, from the Parliament of Victoria website:
Governor's royal assent and commencement: Royal assent is when the Governor, on behalf of the Queen, approves a bill which both Houses have passed. When the bill is given royal assent it becomes an Act (law). The date the Act commences depends on the details of the Act itself. The Governor may need to proclaim that certain sections come into force for them to commence.
More on how bills are passed, here.
Ms Dunn has moved her amendment, which is calling for the general election date to be the fourth Saturday in October, 2018.
The opposition does not support the amendment, and believes 2019 would be a more sensible date – however, believes the cost of holding an election one year early could not be justified.
UPDATE 5.55pm: The bill is currently before the legislative council. The Greens are calling for the bill to be amended and an election brought forward to 2018.
“It’s pivotal democracy is restored to the community of central Goldfields as soon as it possibly can be,’’ Greens local government spokesperson Samantha Dunn has told the council.
Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford told the council central Goldfields was one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state.
“We certainly do not do this lightly,’’ she said.
“The cost of an election to the Central Goldfields shire is in the order of $112,000 … I certainly express my view, given the nature of the findings of the inspectorate report, it is the view of the government that one year is not enough to be able to turn around the deficiencies in culture and governance that are clearly evident in central goldfields,’’ she said.
The minster said additional support for leadership capability would be provided in the region, including a regional assembly in coming months.
UPDATE 5.30pm: An unwillingness to move with the times and a disregard for honesty and openness are the key factors in a situation like the one which has occurred in Maryborough, says Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins.
Ms Hutchins spoke at length about her concerns over what had allegedly taken place at the Central Goldfields Shire Council over many years.
The central Victorian shire has long sat at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in Victoria, and the Local Government minister was scathing about the lack of transparency revealed in the latest reports, saying it should put all 79 local governments in the state on notice.
“The core of most problems I see in councils across the state is the lack of transparency,” Ms Hutchins said.
The core of most problems I see in councils across the state is the lack of transparency- Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins
“Residents need to have a say in major decision-making, or at least be informed of what councils are considering. Quite often residents are finding out after the fact, and nothing paints that more starkly than the last two weeks seeing Darebin and Yarra councils making their decisions around Australia Day.”
With regard to Central Goldfields Shire in particular, Ms Hutchins said she believed the council had no real appetite for change or reform.
“A few years ago there were charges laid against a particular councillor; we’ve now had charges laid against the CEO. I think there are fundamental problems with the council, both at the elected councillor level and with the leadership of the paid staff of council,” she said.
Ms Hutchins says if the bill passes the Upper House quickly, than an administrator could be in place by next Monday. She said it was too early to name who the administrator would be, but several suitable candidates had been approached.
There was also potential for further investigation to be undertaken outside of the Local Government Act, warned Ms Hutchins. She said in speaking to people in the shire and local MPs, it was clearly imperative for her to act quickly.
“It is my job to make sure the 79 councils across the state uphold their duty under the Act, and where they fail to do that, then the bottom line is they are failing their own community,” said Ms Hutchens.
The state government is currently reviewing the Local Government Act.
Maryborough ratepayers have been left wondering how they will recoup lost money and what other errors have been made following the state government’s move to sack the shire’s councillors.
“We’re a poor shire, we can’t afford to do a lot of things and you wonder what else has happened – some of the projects that have been done, have they been done in the right way? Should the money have been spent elsewhere when it’s done?,” Paul Tidyman Automotives co-owner Nola Tidyman said
“So those types of investigations will be good to be able to see what happens with that.”
More of what Maryborough locals had to say, here: Businesses hail fresh start as residents reel after shire sacking
The Municipal Association of Victoria has also weighed in, issuing a statment regarding the dismissal.
“The Minister for Local Government’s decision to sack Central Goldfields Shire Council is disappointing and will leave the community without elected local representation,” the statement reads.
“While we acknowledge that this is the Minister’s prerogative, we question whether this drastic response is warranted, given the Inspectorate’s report was handed down just five days ago. The report identified poor governance practices, lack of internal controls, and inadequate policies and procedures,” MAV president Cr Mary Lalios said.
These matters need to be addressed as a matter of urgency to restore public confidence that the council is upholding transparent and accountable good governance practices, and operating in the best interests of its community.- MAV president Cr Mary Lalios
“These matters need to be addressed as a matter of urgency to restore public confidence that the council is upholding transparent and accountable good governance practices, and operating in the best interests of its community.
“However, the council should be provided with more time to implement changes before the drastic step of sacking the elected representatives is taken.
“As a matter of principle, dismantling a democratically elected government is never the ideal solution.
“The report findings substantially related to administrative issues over a long period of time, and not failings of the current councillors – two of whom were only elected in October last year.
“It would be a better outcome for the community if the municipal monitor appointed last month continued to work with councillors and the interim CEO to oversee improvements to governance processes, and the performance of administrative functions and statutory obligations.”
UPDATE 3.30pm Shadow minister for local government David Davis said the Liberals would not support a Greens amendment to the legislation sacking the embattled Central Goldfields Shire Council, suggesting the government’s current proposal was “reasonable”.
“We can see the sense in a 2019 (election) date but we’re aware that it would be close to the 2020 date and would incur an additional cost to ratepayers of $112,000 (per election),” he said.
“I don’t think ratepayers would welcome an additional sting of paying more.”
Mr Davis said the 2018 date proposed by the Greens was “not long enough” to solve the shire’s problems.
UPDATE 2pm: The Victorian Greens have weighed into the sacking of the Central Goldfields Shire Council, arguing an election should be held next year, not in 2020.
Greens local government spokesperson Samantha Dunn said the Greens support dismissing the council but will seek to move an amendment to set an election date in 2018 when the bill reaches the upper house of parliament.
The bill, which proposes having government-appointed administrators run the shire until elections in 2020, swiftly passed the lower house on Wednesday.
"Consistent with the previous times that state governments have sacked councils, the Greens are voting for an early return to democracy," Ms Dunn said.
"Administrators can clean up administrative messes, but only elected councillors can represent the people," she said.
Geelong ratepayers will go to the polls later this year after its council was sacked in 2016.
The state government initially proposed a 2020 election for Geelong, which was later amended.
The Coalition currently holds the balance of power in the upper house, meaning the Liberals would have to support any amendment put forward by the Greens.
Speaking to Fairfax Media local government minister Natalie Hutchins said a 2018 election would be “a waste of money”, given ratepayers would be required to vote again in 2020.
“There are ingrained problems at the council that can’t be dealt with in a year,” she said, stating her preference for a 2020 election.
UPDATE 1pm: Locals in Maryborough have welcomed news of the sacking of the Central Goldfields Shire council, but are divided on whether an election should be held immediately.
Paul Tidyman Automotives co-owner Nola Tidyman said she was pleased with the appointment of administrators but hoped residents’ questions would be answered soon.
“I think it’ll be good for the local community to have things cleaned up and sorted out, have questions answered, make a fresh start and move forward,” she said.
“As a business owner there are always things that happen that you question.
“You look at it all the time and wonder whether things have been done appropriately.”
But Ms Tidyman was not in a rush to return to the polls, saying it would likely take until 2020 to sort out the shire’s issues.
“I do think that it will take that long to retrain and find appropriate new leaders, I don’t think that’s going to be a simple process,” she said.
Meanwhile, Maryborough local Glenda Carroll said she was “shocked” to hear about the council’s woes after moving to the shire six weeks ago.
“I read about it in the paper and I though it’s just not good, the money that should have been there to do more for the community is just not there now so I hope they get it sorted out really soon,” she said.
But unlike Ms Tidyman, Ms Carroll said she thought a new election should be called as soon as practicable.
“No more major decisions really should be made until they do put more councillors in because who do we really know that are working for us an not against us?” she said.
UPDATE 12.00pm The government’s prompt action to sack Central Goldfields Shire Council stemmed from concerns the shire would not reform itself, the local government minister has claimed.
Victoria’s local government inspectorate released a damning report last week into the shire, detailing extensive losses from the sale of council assets, misuse of government grants and corporate credit cards, among others.
The state government said it would demand a response to the report, which was the result of a lengthy investigation, within 28 days of its publication.
However, local government minister Natalie Hutchins said she did not believe the council had the appetite to change.
“We didn't have a very good indication from council that they were going to take this report seriously,” she told journalists in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“We've had a number of conversations with people on the ground to get their reactions to the allegations. There’s a lot of shock in the community – that’s why we’ve acted to quickly.”
It was incumbent on the government to “clean up the mess” that had been left, she said.
“Unfortunately there are councillors that don't make decisions by the local government act, in some cases council staff as well,” she said.
A bill to dismiss the council passed the lower house of parliament on Wednesday.
It is required to pass the upper house before it is made law, however it is currently unclear when that will happen.
Ms Hutchins said it was up to the government-appointed administrators, who will run the council until an election in 2020, to decide whether existing council staff will remain employed.
UPDATE 11.30am: Central Goldfields Shire mayor Geoff Lovett has expressed shock and disappointment on behalf of his fellow councillors at the decision.
“I do not question the minister’s authority,” said Mr Lovett, “but the decision is preemptive.”
“Council should have been given the time to work through the issues it needs to address. We had a draft Action Plan in place already last Friday that addressed in detail and was ready to act upon the governance issues raised in the (Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate’s) report.
“We had begun work on the governance issues raised in the report, and council was working proactively to overcome those concerns.
“To sack a democratically-elected council for the failings of the executive – to me the logic is incomprehensible. We have been denied a fair and just opportunity to address these issues – issues that we were aware of and capable of dealing with.
“Can I say that on a personal level I’m disappointed that I received a phone call telling us of the minister’s decision from a bureaucrat, and not from the Minister herself. We have always maintained good relations with the department.
“Again, it’s purely a decision of the minister, but we are shocked and disappointed as councillors.”
UPDATE 10:45am In introducing the Local Government (Central Goldfields Shire Council) Bill 2017 into the lower house of Victorian parliament, local government minister Natalie Hutchins said without the bill there was “a risk of further deterioration” of the shire’s governance.
“The community and parliament expect the highest standards of governance, probity and representation from their councillors and council staff. This bill will ensure good governance in Central Goldfields is restored,” she said.
Ms Hutchins said the bill complied with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, parts of which allow individuals to take part in public life, given the exceptional circumstances of the shire.
“The serious nature of the local government (inspectorates) findings and the failure of councillors to act in accordance with their statutory obligations, clearly warrant the removal of council as soon as possible,” she said.
“Removal of an elected council is a last resort and undertaken in exceptional circumstances. While this is regrettable, the government has a responsibility to protect communities from governance failings by their local representatives.”
UPDATE 10:15am: A bill dismissing the Central Goldfields Shire Council passed through the lower house of Victorian parliament in a matter of minutes on Wednesday morning.
The state government introduced an emergency bill into the legislative assembly to sack the embattled shire following revelations of extensive financial and governance failures.
Speaking to the Local Government (Central Goldfields Shire Council) Bill 2017, member for Mornington and liberal party representative David Morris said the shire was the most challenged municipality outside of the metropolitan area.
“It (shire) is not the wealthiest in the state but not on the brink of bankruptcy either”.
“It needs the government’s support to get back onto its feet.”
Mr Morris confirmed the opposition would not challenge the bill.
Labor member for Yan Yean Danielle Green was the other politician to speak to the bill.
She said it was “with great seriousness one sees the (Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate) report”.
“Central Goldifelds Shire is the most disadvantaged local government area in Victoria,” she said.
Ms Green said she had a family connection to the municipality.
The bill swiftly passed the third reading stage, meaning it has passed through all stages in the assembly.
It must now pass the upper house of parliament – the legislative council.
EARLIER The Central Goldfields Shire Council will be sacked by the state government following revelations of extensive financial and governance failures by the shire.
The government on Wednesday introduced an emergency bill into parliament to dismiss the embattled shire.
Government-appointed administrators will run the shire until council elections are held in October 2020.
Local government minister Natalie Hutchins said the decision was made in response to last week’s damning report by the state’s local government inspectorate, which revealed extensive losses from the sale of council assets.
Related: Report slams goldfields council
Misuse of government grants and corporate credit cards were also uncovered by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, which had been investigating the shire.
The LGICI also found a lack of transparency and a disregard for legislative requirements in the sale of council land, which resulted in a significant loss of public funds – estimated to be more than $730,000.
The report found a significant amount of government grant funding could not be accounted for and the shire’s employees were providing private contracting services to the council on weekends.
The government said an interim administrator will be appointed shortly, before ongoing administrators are appointed to perform the roles and functions of the council until October 2020.
Minister Hutchins said: “We have not taken this decision lightly. Dismissing a council is a significant step, and is the result of extensive and disturbing mismanagement by council over many years.”
“The Central Goldfields Shire Council has let down local residents and businesses, and lost its right to govern on their behalf.”
The shire’s chief executive officer Mark Johnston was indefinitely stood down from his position in July after been charged with multiple accounts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, false accounting and conflict of interest.
The LGICI report detailed the extensive losses council incurred through the sale of certain assets, including a $285,000 loss on the Maryborough Primary School and a 15 per cent loss on a former abattoir site.
The investigation into the shire revealed it sold the former Penney and Lang abattoirs site, in Madmans Lane, Flagstaff, for a 15 per cent loss in 2015, the cost of which would be borne by the ratepayers.
The Madmans Lane site has been the subject of recent controversy, with volunteer Country Fire Authority crews possibly exposed to asbestos during a controlled burn carried out at the request of the shire.
The report revealed in 2008 the council purchased the Maryborough Primary School site on Inkerman Street for $780,000 and it was later valued at $1 million.
After a sale offer for the evaluated price fell through in 2011, council proceeded to sell the block for $485,000 – a loss of $285,000.
Combined with the sale of two other nearby assets, council registered an estimated net loss of $732,500.
Central Goldfields Shire Council mayor Cr Geoff Lovett said last week he was disappointed his council’s internal processes were in “such poor shape”, while acknowledging there was significant work to be done to ensure its compliance levels were satisfactory.
The full LGICI report is available here: http://www.vic.gov.au/lgici/reports-and-newsletters/protecting-integrity-central-goldfields-shire-council-investigation.html
Old journalist, The Courier.
Old journalist, The Courier.
Bendigo born and bred, interested in business malpractice, crime, social justice and corruption in all its forms. Got a tip? 5434 4476
Bendigo born and bred, interested in business malpractice, crime, social justice and corruption in all its forms. Got a tip? 5434 4476
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.