Elected member conflict of interest is the last of the areas of concern in the Government’s 1st Reform Area. I agree. It is absolutely an area in need of reform.
The ‘elected member conflict of interest’ model in the Local Government Act is unnecessarily complicated and confusing. As a result, many councillors do not participate in debates, when their expertise would be valuable.
I have seen this play out in the current council. I myself have felt compromised on occasion, unsure of whether I have a conflict or not. Worse yet, there is potential for a member to use conflict of interest as a way of avoiding voting on a contentious issue.
The rules around elected member conflict of interest are complex. They need simplifying. They need to recognise that elected members invariably will be members of other community organisations. Be that sporting clubs, service clubs, churches, neighbourhood watch or other like community based organisations.
Being a member of any such club should not in itself constitute a conflict. Often the aims of the organisation and council are the same. A conflict should therefore centre around the original intention of the act. That is that the elected member should not personally gain.
The current provisions also cloud the area of where you or your family may live as a potential conflict of interest. A member should be able to vote on matters relevant to their street or suburb. If they can’t then their immediate neighbours do not have a voice in Council. This played out to the consternation of the community in the last Council as they dealt with the DPA in Unley Central.
If these rules are not simplified we run the very real risk of community minded people not running in future for Council. Given this, you have to ask the question. Who do we want running for Council.
The very same people I would have thought.