Local News

Cairns Councillor Calls For Transparency And Accountability


Off the back of Cassowary Coast Council's recent decision to delegate majority conflicted matters to eligible Councillors, a Cairns Councillor has called for transparency and accountability on the issue within his own shire.

Division 5 representative Richie Bates, who unsuccessfully put up a motion to delegate decisions to eligible Councillors early in the year, said it is time for another tilt now that Council's like Cassowary Coast have forced open the door to democracy.

Cr Bates said, "I commend the tenacity and integrity of Cr Mark Nolan at Cassowary Coast Regional Council, he fought for a just and democratic outcome to give non-conflicted Councillors voting rights and won."

"Here in Cairns we are still delegating matters to the CEO despite the presence of Councillors without the conflict of campaign donations"

"For 18 months we have been allowing an unelected bureaucrat decide matters when democratically elected representatives could be given a voice for their constituents."

Cr Bates who first raised the option of delegating to eligible Councillors after the implementation of Belcarra reforms in 2018 has been denied the detailed legal advice between McCullough Robertson Lawyers and Cairns Regional Council's CEO on the legislation.

Cr Bates continued, "The CEO has refused to provide the full details of advice between his office and Council's lawyers on this matter. Subsequently, I have lodged an RTI application to release this information which I believe holds valuable insight into the current delegation process that allows the CEO to make decisions instead of eligible Councillors"

"In my view Councillors have a right to know this information on the grounds of joint privilege, and for them to be fully informed in the interests of democracy and good governance."

"Ironically, the lawyers that provided the Belcarra briefings to the Councillors are now fighting to suppress the detailed delegation advice with the CEO, all at ratepayer expense."

"It is time for the CEO to come clean and reveal all the details of advice between himself and McCullough Robertson on Belcarra legislation - Advice that gives the CEO the decision making power on matters where a majority conflict exists."

A Council spokesperson said Councillors have received numerous briefings, training and question/answer sessions on this issue from legal advisors (McCullough Robertson Lawyers) and senior officers from the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs.

"Subsequently, a Bill to overcome these issues was introduced into State Parliament on 1 May, but unfortunately has not yet been passed.

"This issue will be further considered after the LGAQ State Conference currently taking place in Cairns" the statement concluded.  

By Michelle Price