Councillors abandon code of conduct opposition

Cr Anne Salt.

A SECOND confrontation with Local Government minister Peter Gutwein has been avoided after Derwent Valley councillors reversed their opposition to the updated code of conduct for elected members.

Despite the arguments against the new code of conduct heard at the February council meeting, the majority of councillors voted in favour of the document at the March meeting.

Cr Anne Salt said too much time had been spent on the matter and moved that the updated code of conduct be adopted. Her motion was seconded by Cr Julie Triffett who had previously expressed reservations and abstained from voting on the matter at the February council meeting.

“This matter has been on this council’s agenda items on too many occasions, when every other council in Tasmania has adopted this policy,” Cr Salt said. “I support the adoption of the policy without reservation,” she said.

Cr Julie Triffett.

Cr Triffett said the council had to be compliant and move on. “Twenty-eight other councils have … voted for it,” she said. “I’ve looked at the minutes of three other councils, two voted unanimously and one did have one person vote against it.” 

Former mayor Martyn Evans said he objected to being told by parliament how he should vote, and he would not be supporting the motion. “I think we need to speak to the director [of local government] but, same as last time, he hasn’t afforded us that courtesy and so I won’t be supporting it,” Cr Evans said.

No other councillors spoke to the motion and when put to the vote all but Cr Evans supported the adoption of the revised code of conduct policy. Two councillors who spoke against the policy at the previous month’s meeting – mayor Ben Shaw and Cr Paul Belcher – were absent from the March meeting.

The council fell foul of minister Peter Gutwein three years ago when it delayed replacing its own own of conduct with a new version provided by state parliament. As well as expressing concern about some of the clauses in the code, councillors at the time objected to being told by parliament that they must vote in favour of the document.

The council eventually complied with the minister’s directions but with a new version of the policy on the table at the February council meeting, councillors voted to defer its adoption until after they had received a briefing from local government director Alex Tay.

It is understood that no such briefing had been received at the time of the March council meeting but councillors did receive advice informing them of their obligation to adopt the revised code of conduct in accordance with the Local Government Act.

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