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Pay up or shut up: Councils say complaining about them should attract a fee

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Local councils are set to demand the Palaszczuk Government start charging an “administration fee” of $200 to people who want to lodge a complaint about misconduct by councillors.

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The plan comes as the furore continued over the treatment of outback mayor Sean Dillon by the government’s council watchdog over critical comments he made about the vaccine rollout.

The government has agreed to a parliamentary inquiry into the actions of the Office of Independent Assessor.

However, the state’s mayors and councillors are likely to use the platform of the Local Government Association’s annual conference in Mackay this week to express their anger over their treatment at the hands of the body.

OIA boss Kathleen Florian is due to address the conference on Tuesday, while on Wednesday councils will debate a policy proposal for the OIA to levy a $200 charge for each complaint made to the agency.

Ms Florian’s appearance at the conference follows intense criticism of the OIA after news broke last week of its pursuit of Barcaldine Mayor Sean Dillon after he publicly criticised the local hospital board’s handling of the vaccine rollout.

Mount Isa City Council is putting forward the conference motion, saying that despite all of the 14 complaints made to the OIA about it since 2017 were dismissed, dealing with them and other complaints to the Crime and Corruption Commission had cost the council $200,000 over the past 12 months.

“The amount expended represents approximately one per cent rate rise and clearly these funds could be used effectively elsewhere,” the council aid in a statement explaining its move.

“This amount is not accounted for in the operational budget and the required funds must be sourced within the budget, often at the expense of other scheduled activities or initiatives.”

It said requiring a fee to be paid for complaints to be lodged could reduce the number of frivolous complaints or at least go some way to pay for their processing.

“The fee would be refunded where the allegations made in the complaint were substantiated,” the council said.

Another motion by the council calls on the OIA to not respond to anonymous complaints.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, all but four of the state’s 77 councils have registered to attend the conference, with 66 mayors, 57 council CEOs and 218 elected members in total attending.

 

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