The State Government’s latest ‘review’ of our laws has led to another instance of doublespeak, window dressing and the continued watering down of legislation that serves the purpose of making things as difficult as possible for communities to peek behind the veil of secrecy and lack of accountability.

We remind readers that on every occasion when real reform to local government and planning could, and should, have been achieved, Wynne and his cohorts have literally wimped it in favour of bureaucratic (continued) control, or in favour of developers and the construction industry.

We’ve had the following legislation changes that are nothing more than empty words:

  • The Objector’s Act that was supposed to take account of resident objectors’ concerns to development applications and pay heed to the number(s) of objectors. It does nothing of the sort and is a dismal failure as various VCAT decisions have pointed out.
  • Better Apartments. Another whitewash where instead of stipulating mandatory size apartments we got nothing more than guidelines for ‘ventilation’, etc. A complete cop out.
  • Garden area requirement for NRZ & GRZ developments. More fiddling and failure. Following several VCAT decisions where it was decided that land under eaves should NOT constitute part of the open space requirement, Wynne changed the Practice Note so now these areas CAN be included in the calculation. Also changed was the requirement that these areas be on the ground floor level. That also went so that now that this aspect of open space can be part of someone’s balcony.
  • VicSmart (Amendments C143 & C148) are nothing short of disastrous for residents. No need to advertise some applications and the introduction of the Transport Networks, has resulted in 80% of Glen Eira now not having to provide visitor car parking.

The latest woeful effort is the proposed changes to the Local Government Act. Instead of ensuring that councils are far more accountable and transparent, this proposed Bill does the exact opposite. Parading as giving residents more say we now have a farce writ large!

Currently only another councillor or an officer may report a councillor to a Conduct Panel. In trying to appear as if this government really gives a damn about resident views we have the intention to ‘broaden’ this so that a petition can be sent off asking for a ‘commission of enquiry’. Not so simple however. The applicant has a 200 word limit, plus this petition must obtain 25% of signatures of residents eligible to vote in the municipality. This is not only ludicrous. It is designed to fail. In Glen Eira at the last council elections there were 104,000 qualified voters. That means that any petition asking for an investigation under this ruling would require at least 25,000 signatures. The chances of that happening are zilch. But it surely sounds good, when the government talks about more ‘community accountability’.

Another aspect of great concern is the proposal that a councillor can only be dismissed if there have been 2 findings of gross misconduct in the space of 8 years. What happens if the misconduct takes place over 9 years? More importantly, this completely changes what the current Local Government Act states:

If VCAT makes a finding that a Councillor has engaged in conduct that constitutes gross misconduct, VCAT may order that the Councillor is disqualified from continuing to be a Councillor for a period specified by VCAT not exceeding 8 years and the office of the Councillor is vacated.  

No second chances here. That councillor can be booted out immediately for a period up to 8 years!

We present below the two pages from this draft for readers to digest.

In summary, every legislative review of the past few years has not resulted in greater transparency and accountability to the community, but the exact opposite. Shameful in a so called ‘democracy’’