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                    [post_content] => 

 

By Andy Young

The NSW Liquor Amendment (Reviews) Bill, which was passed by the State Parliament last week, will see strikes recorded against licensed venues removed.

The changes to the laws will see strikes now recorded against the licensee rather than the venue, as The Shout reported earlier this week.

Minister Paul Toole said it would be “impractical” for the previous strikes to remain in place when moving forward with the new scheme as it would mean that two different schemes would be in place at the same time.

Arthur Laundy, whose hotel The Steyne in Manly received a strike, told TheShout that he felt "vindicated in as much as right from the start I have said that I don’t believe this is a fair rule".

"I’ve said it right from the start, the government got it right with the clubs, but they didn’t get it right with the hotels," Laundy said. As I explained to someone yesterday who was struggling to understand the issue: you own a trucking company and you employ drivers, if a driver goes out and has a serious accident, who should get the penalty? The driver of the truck, or the owner of the truck? He said, good analogy, I understand."

He added: "I own the hotel, but I’m not at the hotel. I’m not the licensee. I’ve never considered it was a fair rule. I’ve argued now for some years on exactly that line. People have called me this morning to say it was a good victory, and I’ve said it was fair. I don’t think I asked for anything that was unfair."

Read more here.

This story first appeared in The Shout. 
                    [post_title] => New rules see licence strikes cleared
                    [post_excerpt] => Pubs vindicated. 
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                    [post_content] =>  

Pledging to fight on: North Sydney Mayor Jilly Gibson. Pic: Facebook. 

 

 

North Sydney Mayor Jilly Gibson has vowed to contest the mayoralty again in the next local government elections, despite toxic relationships between her and four other councillors.

Relationships between the Mayor and other councillors and between the Mayor and the former General Manager Warwick Winn had become so fraught that former NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole ordered a public inquiry in January 2016 in an attempt to stop the squabbles.

Tom Howard SC, who conducted the inquiry for the Office of Local Government (OLG), uncovered “a degree of conflict and personal antipathy” among councillors which he said had led to some “poor decisions” but he refrained from suspending or dismissing the council, instead issuing an improvement performance order (IPO).

NSW Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upon lambasted the three councils named in the report, which also included Auburn and Murray River, for their ‘petty rivalries, childish behaviour and self-interest’.

While the atmosphere over at North Sydney Council chambers had lifted somewhat after the departure of Mr Winn in April 2016, tensions among councillors were still in evidence at this week’s council meeting when four councillors – councillors Jeff Morris, Zoe Baker, Melissa Clare and Maryanne Beregi - walked out while the Mayor was speaking about the Office of Local Government report, saying that it had vindicated her.

"The relentless actions of my protagonists has gone way beyond politics. It's gone against civility and on many occasions I felt dehumanised," Ms Gibson told the meeting.

She told Government News that she was “extremely disappointed that some councillors were disrespectful and walked out of the meeting when I was speaking".

But despite labelling the inquiry process “exhausting and harrowing” and saying she had been bullied by other councillors  for a long time the Mayor came out swinging, saying she was “enormously resilient” and would stand for the mayoralty at the council elections, likely to be on  September 9.

She said her poor treatment by other councillors did not match the reception she got in the community and this is where she spent most of her time.

“I have been treated with great disrespect within these four walls but out in the community I am treated with kindness, affection and respect,” Ms Gibson said.

Resignation had never been on the cards.

“I’ve stayed strong. You can’t give in to workplace bullying. It just encourages them. I made a four-year commitment to the North Sydney community.

“I work incredibly hard for this community: I’m the only one that ever turns up a public and community events and citizenship ceremonies. I’m very resilient and I love my job.”

Asked if the relationship breakdown hindered the workings of council she said: “We get the business of council done very well. It’s just unfortunate that I have to do my job [coping] with hostility and rudeness.”

Councillor Melissa Clare did not welcome the Mayor's resolution to seek another term as Mayor.

"It is increasingly impossible to work with the mayor as she believes that she is the dictator rather than a elected official who has to work with others," Ms Clare said. "She is bullying, erratic and irrational. We continue to try to work with her -  or else work around her-  so as to ensure that the business of council is conducted in the most orderly and efficient manner for our residents (despite her attempt to create chaos and drama through misinformation and outright lies)."

Ms Clare denied that the OLG report had backed Ms Gibson. 

"It did not vindicate her as much as point out that she is incapable of carrying out her role and that is evidenced by her inability to chair meetings despite 17 years on council and numerous (repeated) training sessions."

Ms Gibson had planned to stand as an independent candidate for North Shore in the state by-election on April 8, the seat recently vacated by Liberal stalwart and former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, but she withdrew her nomination on Thursday. 

There are at least three other independents standing: Royal North Shore surgeon Dr Stephen Ruff, local campaigner Ian Mutton and Mosman Councillor Carolyn Corrigan.

“If the independents work together and do preference deals one of them has a good chance of winning,” Ms Gibson said. “If the aim is to keep the Liberals out then it’s sensible to preference.”

But she said it was doubtful that this would happen, “so far there have been refusals to do any preference deals” and added that an independent candidate could not possibly win alone.

“I think those discussions are done and dusted.”

Independents will square up against Felicity Wilson, who is the Liberal Party’s North Shore candidate.

North Sydney councillor Jeff Morris has been contacted for comment.
                    [post_title] => Embattled North Sydney Mayor vows to contest mayoralty again
                    [post_excerpt] => Preference deals unlikely among North Shore independents at by-election. 
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                    [post_content] => 
Council mergers: A tale of two Premiers

 

 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision on Tuesday to dump six regional council mergers and push ahead with Sydney metropolitan mergers concludes another chapter in what has been a terribly managed process.

Forcibly merging local councils was never going to be easy but former NSW Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole set in motion a sequence of events that further tarnished the public’s view of politicians, irritated councils and angered councillors, all while swallowing a huge amount of time, effort and money.

The words dog’s and breakfast spring to mind.

“It’s a well-earned epithet in this case,” says Professor Graham Sansom, who led the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s (ILGRP) inquiry into NSW local government reform in 2013.

“I think you can say with some fairness that pretty much everything they could get wrong they did get wrong,” says Prof Sansom. “The merger process has unquestionably been a disaster.”

Council mergers are not inherently right or wrong – this is the fifth round of council mergers in NSW since the 1970s - but the way the government set about selling them to the public and its dealings with councils was chaotic, inconsistent and disrespectful. Devious even.

In the meantime, other important local government reforms – like reviewing the rates system; encouraging better council co-operation around strategic planning and service delivery; and updating the Local Government Act were pushed into the background as mergers sparked all-out war.

It seemed mergers were the only game in town.


Articulating the merger message

Mike Baird’s success in pushing through the poles and wires sell-off to fund that state’s new infrastructure was partly because he went into the 2015 state election saying he was going to do it and he outlined the benefits of doing so for ordinary Australians.

Contrast this with the flimflammery surrounding council mergers: another extremely emotive policy area.

The government downplayed the subject of council mergers before the 2015 State election, vaguely indicating it would proceed with voluntary mergers and saying that it might push others.  It didn’t help that some government MPs, including Mr Toole, had signed petitions and spoken publicly against forced amalgamations in the recent past.

Prof Sansom says the government should have been upfront and honest about what it wanted to do and clearly set out the benefits and objectives of wider local government reform.

But the government’s narrow focus, in public at least, was on the savings it said mergers would deliver - $2 billion over 20 years – opening it up to furious disagreement from academics like University of New England’s Professor Brian Dollery at the Centre for Local Government.

“By just carrying on constantly about saving a few million here and a few million there I think the government shot itself in the foot because cash savings are the hardest benefit to prove. The financial evidence base was weak,” Prof Sansom says.

“And you don’t throw everything into that much turmoil for just one or two per cent savings on total government expenditure.”

Instead, other community benefits should have been stressed, such as better quality services, improved metropolitan planning, more opportunities for regional development, stronger local governance, ‘tangible things that people care about’ says Sansom.

The government could have spoken about giving councils more scope and more political clout at state and federal level, rather than bypassing them with new agencies like Urban Growth and the Greater Sydney Commission.

“The state government is doing things that local government ought to be doing,” he says.

Roberta Ryan, Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), agrees that the NSW government got hung up on the possible cost savings of mergers, without properly articulating the advantages of broader local government reforms.

“It is important that other potential reforms are explored and progressed at the same time - amalgamation is only one tool - and the NSW Inquiry outlined 60 plus other recommendations, some of which are being progress as well, so it is useful not to have the argument just focus on this one aspect,” Prof Ryan says.

She says the emphasis on savings alone did not help the government’s case.

“The evidence is that rates rise to the higher value and services levels also rise from the lower level to the higher level following amalgamation - so this further reduces the potential for cost savings,” says Prof Ryan.

“There may well be long-run efficiencies and higher capacity for local government in the long run which can be beneficial - so the evidence of cost savings needs to be considered as part of short term and longer term arguments.”

Prof Ryan says people are ‘generally 50:50’ about mergers but their perspectives can shift. People in regional and rural areas are more concerned about the negative impact of mergers, she says.

2015-2016 UTS research, Why Local Government Matters, showed resistance to mergers dropped markedly when the public interest benefits of mergers were spelt out. Providing the research to back it up and showing evidence of good process was also critical.

“In the metro areas - the government has a good story to tell - it needs to get out and run the arguments - locality by locality - giving people good processes - access to evidence of the potential benefits - and explain their rationale for undertaking these reforms,” she says.

Producing the evidence and sharing it was also necessary when selling mergers to the public.

“This evidence then becomes part of the public debate that keeps everyone informed and prevents the exchange of ignorance on both sides - the NSW government has invested substantially in gathering this evidence - but it would benefit from communicating it more to the affected communities.”

Baird et al got themselves in a pickle because the evidence for cost saving was weak and they’d made mergers all about saving money.

The NSW Government was not overly forthcoming about supplying the evidence either. The KPMG report, that it says backs up its merger case, is yet to be released in its entirety.

The government’s over-reliance on savings to make its case also led to jarring inconsistencies during the Fit for the Future process when some councils that were strong financially were forced to merge, while other strugglers were left to stand alone.

It left the government open to charges of political opportunism and deepened public cynicism with the process.

Prof Sansom says: “You’ve got to be able to explain what your strategy is and why you’re doing it and you’ve got to be consistent from one place to another. If you treat areas for no good reason differently people lose faith,” he says.

Listening to ratepayers, allaying fears

The government failed to listen to residents’ concerns or to come up with a plan to do anything about them, as well as not communicating a consistent merger message.

The UTS survey found people were most worried about loss of local representation from creating larger councils. This came up repeatedly during merger debates but the NSW government ignored it.

Instead it held hasty public hearings, sacked councillors, appointed administrators and delayed elections for newly merged councils until September 2017.

Prof Sansom says Mr Baird could have considered other ideas, such as having Community Boards at ward level – as happened after the New Zealand council mergers.

Larger, merged councils could also have had more councillors and wards, at least as a transition measure to reassure people that effective local representation would be maintained.

“There’s this obsession with reducing the number of councillors. A notion that councillors get in the way and it’s going to be better if you have fewer of them,” he says.

“The government leapt into mergers without having had that conversation about how to deal with people’s concerns about local representation.”

He says: “It’s basic human psychology. You want to try to think of ways of sweetening the pill.”

He argues that keeping councillors on during the transition period and appointing a transition manager would also have been the sensible thing to do, as happened with the 2008 Queensland mergers.

“Instead: [the government said] we’re going to issue a proclamation and everybody is going to disappear overnight. To me, it’s hard to conceive of a process more likely to get people’s backs up than that.”

An independent body and an independent process

The ILGRP recommended in its 2013 Revitalising Local Government report that the merger process should be managed by a reconstituted, independent Boundaries Commission – with no current or former state politicians or councillors sitting on it - to increase the public’s faith in the decision making process.

The Commission would also periodically review local government boundaries.

In fact, says Prof Ryan, residents should also be involved in setting boundaries around ‘communities of interest’. This can involve looking at key factors like how people access services, schools and shopping; commuting patterns and demographic projections, combined with extensive, independent community consultation.

“Otherwise the boundaries are not accepted by the community and there are political and administrative impacts for many years to come,” she says.

Prof Sansom says the Panel warned the government about taking matters into its own hands in its report.

“I’m more than happy to remind your readers that the ILGRP was very definitely of the view that the current legislation and process embodied in it was not going to do the job.”

Another key recommendation by the ILGRP was to reduce the direct involvement of the Local Government Minister in the merger process.

Local Government NSW describes the Minister as having “unfettered decision-making power” in its 2015 report, Amalgamations: To Merge or Not to Merge?

Professor Sansom agrees that there is too much power vested in one person.

“The problem with the Local Government Minister’s role in NSW is that it’s all powerful at both ends of the process.

“You can’t get anything considered without the minister’s ticking it in the first place and you can’t get anything implemented without the minister ticking it again and having the right to tinker with the recommendations made by the Boundaries Commission.

“It just means that the whole process was politicised from go to woe.”

Professor Sansom says he cannot understand why politicians would want to place themselves at the centre of such a fraught process.

“If you want to overcome the inevitable angst around amalgamations you have got to convince people from day one that you’re fair dinkum about it.

“Being transparent and honest, being serious about exploring all the options, not just picking a few arbitrary mergers here and there. Taking councils and communities into your confidence with evidence.”

The government wrote the merger proposals submitted to the Boundaries Commission and the Minister had the final say on whether mergers should or should not proceed.

Prof Ryan sums it up: “If it is seen as a process of political opportunism by governments to strengthen their own political fortunes it then becomes difficult.”

Checklist for state governments pursuing future council mergers 
  • Be clear and honest about your intentions from the start
  • Back them up with sufficient evidence and share this evidence
  • Engage closely with communities around what the benefits are to them
  • Listen to and act on residents’ concerns
  • Be consistent with your reasoning and apply it evenly and fairly
  • Build independence into the process, including drawing boundaries, engaging with communities and assessing proposals
[post_title] => Forced council mergers: How the NSW government got it so wrong [post_excerpt] => A litany of failures. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => forced-council-mergers-nsw-government-got-wrong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-17 10:19:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-16 23:19:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26265 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26222 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-13 15:02:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-13 04:02:42 [post_content] =>  At a crossroads: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Pic: Facebook.      Newly-installed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is poised to make a final decision over whether or not to forge ahead with local council mergers and potentially wind back others on the eve of St Valentine’s Day. The departure of former Premier Mike Baird and NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole; the shock Nationals loss at the Orange by-election and the ascension of Nationals Leader John Barilaro have provided strong incentives for Ms Berejiklian to distance herself from the old regime and style herself as a Premier who listens and acts on voters’ concerns. Ms Berejiklian has indicated that she will make her move early this week, possibly as early as tomorrow (Tuesday).  Stopping forced amalgamations in their tracks could also mean that her party avoids a whipping in two up-coming Sydney by-elections: former Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s North Shore seat and Mr Baird’s Manly electorate, both of which have been hotbeds of resistance to council mergers and are vulnerable to incursions by independent candidates. A third by-election where mergers may come into play is now on the cards with the resignation of Labor Gosford MP Kathy Smith resigned this week due to ill health. She won Gosford by 200 votes in 2015. Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils merged to form Central Coast Council in May last year.  While Ms Berejiklian is likely to heed Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s calls in January for a select few regional councils to be allowed to stand alone – namely, Blayney Shire, Cabonne and Orange; Dungog and Maitland; Bathurst and Oberon; Uralla and Walcha- there are other regional and metropolitan councils embroiled in legal action to fight their mergers. The government will need to decide whether councils like Mosman, Strathfield, Hunters Hill, Oberon and Woollahra are rewarded for their ‘bad behaviour’ in rebelling against the government’s forced merger agenda. Another, even thornier decision is whether to hold costly plebiscites and run the risk of reversing the mergers of the 19 new councils created from 42 in May last year, should ratepayers vote that way. Council administrators, who took over from sacked councillors when the new councils were created, have already stated publicly that the integration of staff, systems and services is already well advanced and grant funding has been allocated to projects using the money for mergers promised by the state government and savings already chalked up. Also to consider are the redundancy packages handed out to senior staff and new staff hired. Holding such plebiscites for merged councils may be too much of a back down for the new Premier, who has publicly stated her support for mergers in the past. [post_title] => Valentine’s Day heartbreak for NSW councils over mergers or happily ever after? [post_excerpt] => Merged at first sight. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => valentines-day-heartbreak-nsw-councils-mergers-happily-ever [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-14 12:50:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-14 01:50:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26222 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26103 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-30 15:23:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-30 04:23:06 [post_content] => NSW Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton speaking at a 2015  anti-council merger rally in Double Bay. Pic: YouTube   Former NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole has escaped being dumped from Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Cabinet and instead been handed two new portfolios. The Bathurst MP dodged a bullet that many thought was heading straight for him and scooped up two new ministries, while relinquishing his local government role, being allocated Minister for Racing and Minister for Lands and Forestry. His position as Local Government Minister would likely have become untenable after new Nationals Leader and Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro came out publicly and said he would block some regional council amalgamations that are still hanging in the balance, something which would have clashed with Toole’s role as one of the main cheerleaders of forced council amalgamations in the former Baird government. Two of the most hotly contested merger proposals still on the table are at least partly in Mr Toole’s Bathurst electorate: the proposed union of Bathurst and Oberon Councils and a merger between Blayney, Cabonne and Orange Councils. Council mergers, along with the greyhound industry ban and hospital funding has been one of the main reasons cited for the Nationals shock loss to the Shooting Fishers and Farmers Party at the Orange by-election last year. Now removed from the rough and tumble of local government mergers, Mr Toole’s new duties as Minister for Lands and Forestry will still bring him into contact with councils, most notably through the review of Crown Lands and roads and the infrastructure backlog. Mr Toole will also need to oversee the new conditions for the greyhound racing industry following the overturned greyhound racing ban, especially in the light of recent reports alleging that dog owners are still doping their dogs. Mr Toole, who was sworn into Cabinet today (Monday), told Fairfax local newspapers that his two new portfolios reflected the concerns of people in rural and regional areas. “Forestry is quite big in rural areas, obviously, and also a strongly innovative industry and a big employer so it’s important that we keep that industry alive,” Mr Toole said. He vowed to oppose any future greyhound racing ban in NSW, as that state's Racing Minister. “Racing is very big in Bathurst with harness racing, thoroughbred racing and greyhound racing so I think I was seen as an MP that had experience with all three,” he said. Mr Toole said his three year stint as Local Government Minister had not all been about council mergers but had also been about improving the integrity and standards in local government and creating a State Borrowing Authority for councils. And what of his replacement, the incoming Local Government Minister, former Attorney General Gabrielle Upton, who has also been handed the Environment and Heritage portfolios? Ms Upton already has already had a rocky ride as far as NSW council amalgamations and the tension between her, local residents and her party goes. The Vaucluse MP spoke at an anti-council merger rally in Double Bay in October 2015 where she encouraged residents to sign a petition against the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils. She told the anti-merger rally at the time: “I believe there is no perfect size for a council and what works here may not work for those that are three streets to our south. I do believe small can be effective.” “Let me be clear about my position on this issue: my position is that Woollahra Council should not be merged with other councils if it has the community support and the numbers stack up.” A few days later the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal  ruled Woollahra Council unfit for the future and recommended it be merged with its neighbours. Ms Upton got into hot water later in the year when Woollahra Mayor Toni Zeltzer arrived at Ms Upton’s office to hand her a petition against the merger, which Ms Upton refused to take, having apparently been warned not to by her party. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades welcomed Berejiklian Government's  move  to “refresh and reset” its relationship with the local government  sector and said he was looking forward to working with the new minister.    “As Member for Vaucluse, Ms Upton has previously been prepared to speak out on behalf of her constituents despite personal political risk," Mr Rhoades said. “That’s exactly what communities expect of their elected representatives – to speak up on their behalf and to act accordingly. “I previously commended the Premier on her commitment to running a government which will take more time to listen the community, and I believe this appointment is a key step towards that."   He called on the new Minister to abandon forced amalgamations everywhere and to restore local democracy. “Stop the forced mergers and send those councils who were denied elections last year to the polls in September – let the people decide how they want to proceed,” Mr Rhoades said. “The new Minister and the new Premier must be genuinely committed to a new day and a re-set and actually listening to what the people want is a pretty good start.” Ms Berejiklian’s new, expanded Cabinet – 23 ministers in all – also includes two new portfolios:  Minister for Counter Terrorism and Minister for WestConnex. Major losers in the reshuffle were Education Minister Andrew Piccoli; Roads Minister Duncan Gay (who is set to quit Parliament ‘sooner rather than later’); Disability Minister John Ajaka – who got upper house president as a consolation prize and Health Minister Jillian Skinner, who reportedly refused an alternative Cabinet role and decided to leave politics altogether. The winners included NSW Treasurer and former Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet, Attorney-General Mark Speakman; Roads Minister Melinda Pavey; Early Childhood Education and Aboriginal affairs minister Sarah Mitchell; Innovation and better regulation minister Matt Kean and Niall Blair, who now has the trade and industry portfolio.   List of NSW ministers: Premier - Gladys Berejiklian MP – Premier Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business - (John) Giovanni Domenic Barilaro MP Treasurer, and Minister for Industrial Relations - Dominic Francis Perrottet MP  Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry - Niall Mark Blair MLC   Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, Minister for the Arts, and Vice-President of the Executive Council-  Donald Thomas Harwin MLC   Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing, and Special Minister of State - Anthony John Roberts MP  Minister for Transport and Infrastructure –  Andrew James Constance MP Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research – Bradley Ronald Hazzard MP Minister for Education – Robert Gordon Stokes MP Attorney General – Mark Raymond Speakman SC MP Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services -  Troy Wayne Grant MP  Minister for Finance, Services and Property -  Victor Michael Dominello MP Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for Social Housing, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault -  Prudence Jane Goward MP  Minister for Lands and Forestry, and Minister for Racing -  Paul Lawrence Toole MP   Minister for Counter Terrorism, Minister for Corrections, and Minister for Veterans Affairs – David Andrew Elliott MP  Minister for the Environment, Minister for Local Government, and Minister for Heritage - Gabrielle Cecilia Upton MP  Minister for Western Sydney, Minister for WestConnex, and Minister for Sport –  Stuart Laurence Ayres MP Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight – Melinda Jane Pavey MP Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation – Matthew John Kean MP Minister for Tourism and Major Events, and Assistant Minister for Skills - Adam John Marshall MP  Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Women, and Minister for Ageing – Tanya Davies MP Minister for Early Childhood Education, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Assistant Minister for Education - Sarah Mitchell MLC  Minister for Multiculturalism, and Minister for Disability Services -  Raymond Craig Williams MP  Parliamentary office holders  President of the Legislative Council (elect) – John Ajaka MLC Speaker of the Legislative Assembly –  Shelley Elizabeth Hancock MP Deputy President and Chair of Committees – Trevor John Khan MLC Deputy Speaker – Thomas George MP Assistant Speaker – Mr Andrew Raymond Gordon Fraser MP Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council –  Donald Thomas Harwin MLC Leader of the House – Anthony John Roberts MP Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council – Niall Mark Blair MLC Government Whip – Mr Christopher Stewart Patterson MP Government Whip in the Legislative Council –  Natasha Maclaren-Jones MLC [post_title] => Upton takes Local Government, Toole reincarnated in NSW cabinet [post_excerpt] => Full list of NSW Ministers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26103 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-30 16:35:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-30 05:35:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26103 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26096 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-27 16:59:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-27 05:59:09 [post_content] =>     NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole must feel like a man condemned as State Health Minister Jillian Skinner retires from politics today (Friday), ahead of next week’s cabinet reshuffle. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that while she was not about to dump the veteran North Shore MP from her Cabinet she would have lost her Health portfolio, something that Ms Skinner had vowed would trigger her resignation from politics altogether.  “I made it clear to her she would be welcome on the team but obviously we had a difference of opinion as to what that job should be," Ms Berejiklian said, soon after Ms Skinner announced her retirement. "I offered her a position on the team moving forward but she obviously had a position that she wanted to take and I respect that decision." Keeping Health was becoming increasingly untenable for the Minister as each new wave of scandal hit: chemotherapy underdosing in hospitals;  a newborn dead and another left with permanent brain damage after a hospital error and a number of hospitals under pressure with long waits in emergency departments and long elective surgery waiting lists. Ms Skinner said in a statement announcing her retirement: "I am naturally sad to be leaving the portfolio I love. However, a new chapter beckons and I am looking forward to the challenges of life outside politics." She spent eight years as Shadow NSW Health Minister before winning the top job in April 2011 and 22 years in Parliament. Her resignation means that there will now be two by-elections: Ms Skinner’s Sydney seat of North Shore and former Premier Mike Baird’s Sydney seat of Manly. Ms Skinner’s electorate takes in Mosman and parts of Lane Cove, Willoughby and North Sydney: long a hot bed of resistance against forced council amalgamations. Mr Baird’s seat also includes the new Northern Beaches Council, which caused fierce protests when it was created. Both seats have a history of electing independent MPs too. Meanwhile, NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole, who is also Nationals MP for Bathurst, must be feeling like a dead man walking and is likely to be ejected from Cabinet in the reshuffle. Mr Toole has been one of the key players driving forced council mergers in the state. Unfortunately for him, new Nationals Leader and Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro has made blocking a select number of regional council mergers his cause celebre.   NSW Labour Leader Luke Foley told Sky News on Sunday last week that it was ironic Mr Toole had spearheaded forced council mergers while his new leader was tryingto stop them.  “(Mr Toole) surely can have no future in Gladys Berejiklian’s cabinet, given his own leader has dumped the policy he’s been implementing for the last 12 months,” Mr Foley said. Community groups opposing council mergers have also called for Mr Toole’s head on a plate and the peak body for NSW local councils, Local Government NSW (LGNSW), has made it displeasure known with the Local Government Minister over the years, coming to a head when mayors and councillors were sacked last year. LGNSW has been contacted for comment.  [post_title] => The writing’s on the wall for Toole as Skinner quits [post_excerpt] => Off with his head, say opponents. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => writings-wall-toole-skinner-quits [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-27 17:04:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-27 06:04:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26096 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23907 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:29:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:29:07 [post_content] => Baird_Hospital_construction   There are some giant question marks hanging over NSW newly-created councils; one of the biggest unknowns is what happens to development applications and planning while administrators are running the show. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole has insisted it's business as usual for council planners and that administrators will be able to decide any development applications (DAs) that can't be dealt with by council officers. Will planning rules change? Mr Toole has promised that administrators at the state’s 19 new councils will not tinker with local environment plans (LEPs), leaving them static until mayors and councillors are elected at the September 2017 local government elections. LEPs are critical to guiding planning decisions and because they regulate land use and development, for example land zonings. The plans are written by local councils but subject to state government approval. However, there is no specific mention of not touching LEPs in the Local Government (Council Amalgamations) Proclamation 2016 that accompanied the announcement of new councils last week. The Proclamation says former council areas will keep their development control and contributions plans but adds: “To avoid doubt, nothing in this clause prevents the new council from amending a development control plan or contributions plan.” Development control plans provide detailed planning and design guidelines to support LEP planning controls. Associate Professor Roberta Ryan, from the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney, said the Proclamation Amalgamation was silent on LEPs, other than to say all plans, strategies and codes of former councils remained in force as they were prior to amalgamation. But she said that although the technical documents informing decisions, such as LEPs, DCPs and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, would not change administrators might interpret them differently from councillors. “All planning instruments of the pre-amalgamated entities remain in force until they are repealed (i.e. new ones prepared by the post-merger entities),” Dr Ryan said. “However, nothing in the Amalgamation Proclamation prohibits the Council (i.e. the administrator until new elections are held) from amending DCPs or development contribution plans.” She said experience had shown that one of the biggest challenges ahead for councils that merge was developing land use planning instruments for entirely new councils. This had taken a substantial amount of time to update following the 2008 Queensland mergers. “NSW’s recent lengthy experience with the standard instrument process (which took about seven years to transition all councils) underscores just how extensive and time consuming this task will be,” A/Prof Ryan said. Councils would also need to wrestle with integration of computer systems development application which allocate application numbers. There is also a question of whether planning officers would stick to DAs from their former council areas because they know the LEP/DCP provisions or if they would also make decisions on other locations too. Planning during the administrator phase: different camps, different worries Property developers Parts of the property industry are fearful that administrators will be gun-shy and either disallow DAs, or put them on ice for 16 months. Chris Johnson from Urban Taskforce said: “We’re very concerned that the administrators may well feel as though they need to be very community sensitive under the circumstances of councils being sacked and in a caretaker mode and not be willing to make big decisions.” Mr Johnson said this could exacerbate housing shortages, particularly in Metropolitan Sydney, and hold up the voluntary planning agreements and rezoning needed for bigger developments to go ahead. He said: “A lot depends on what instructions are given to administrators in relation to planning matters.” Some council LEPs are four or five years out-of-date and did not include new rail lines and metros, where more density is now expected to occur. He suggested the Department of Planning and Environment or the Greater Sydney Commission could make final decisions on larger developments. “We need some confidence that the administrators are not going to be too risk averse.” NSW Executive Director of the Property Council, Jane Fitzgerald, said she was not panicking about planning under the new councils, but was keeping a watchful eye. “We would be concerned if there is evidence of delays in the DA process, for instance, but given that this was announced a week ago and administrators are just getting their feet under their desks I think it’s a little early to get hysterical about it." She said there were DA timelines in place and administrators would be applying the same rules as councillors used. “We need to keep in mind the broader objectives in what we’re dealing [and] what’s intended: less red tape, larger council areas being able to deliver more and better services because of economies of scale.” Community groups, councillors and residents While the property industry is worried the planning process will be held up by having administrators in charge, some mayors, councillors and community groups are worried that the reverse is true and that unpopular developments could be rubber stamped. There is also anxiety that there will be no community voice at the table during discussions on major projects such as WestConnex, the Bays Precinct or North Parramatta Urban Renewal Project. Former Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne – whose inner-west Sydney council merged with Ashfield and Marrickville to create Inner West Council last week – said he feared that sacking councillors and mayors would give NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes carte blanche to push through controversial developments like WestConnex. “[They could] rush through high-rise development in the Bays Precinct, Parramatta Road and the Sydenham to Bankstown rail line corridor without any opposition,” Mr Byrne said. “I expect that these things will be speeded up. The administrators were handpicked by Mike Baird and won’t properly investigate state government proposals. They will just take the view of Mike Baird at face value.” He said sacking councillors and appointing administrators was “an extreme concentration of power that’s ripe for improper decision making". “Local residents and former councillors are all feeling fearful and I think they’re right to be.” The new City of Parramatta Council is the consent authority for some state significant developments, including the proposal to build around 3,000 apartments on a large heritage site in North Parramatta, which contains the Parramatta Female Factory and Roman Catholic Orphan School. North Parramatta Residents Action Group President Suzette Meade, who is also on the Parramatta City Council Heritage Advisory Committee, said council sackings meant residents had “lost the ability to lobby councillors". “We are extremely concerned that local residents will not be heard or listened to,” she said. “We’re saying, just slow down and let the site form the development into a tourism and culture site. It’s a bit of a faux tourism and culture site at the moment.” Ms Meade said the state government had pursued forced amalgamations in order to “administer key development programs in key areas” and that Parramatta was becoming a super council along the key urban growth development corridor. Meanwhile, UrbanGrowth NSW, the lead government agency on the Parramatta North Urban Renewal Program, said it would work with the new council to ensure further consultation on the site. “We held three community information sessions this year where we sought feedback from the local community,” an agency spokesperson said. “Our development applications will be subject to statutory exhibition periods where the community can examine the plans and make formal submissions. In addition, we are looking forward to working with the local community on ensuring the significant heritage buildings have an ongoing, viable use.” “It has always been the intention of UrbanGrowth NSW to lodge future development applications with Parramatta Council.” Parramatta North was rezoned by the planning minister in November 2015.   A statement provided to Government News by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment said: The Department of Planning and Environment is developing a guide for new councils to help transition their planning processes. The Department will provide support to new councils during this period so that they can continue to provide key planning and assessment services to their communities. New Councils will continue to process development applications and other planning activities. Joint Regional Planning Panels will continue to make decisions based on council assessment planning reports. Individuals and businesses should continue to deal with their councils and submit applications for assessment as they would normally. This is an opportunity for new councils to improve their delivery of planning services and the Department will support them to make these improvements.   [post_title] => Best of 2016: Planning under NSW forced council mergers, confusion reigns [post_excerpt] => Administrators to decide development applications. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => planning-nsw-forced-council-mergers-confusion-reigns [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:32:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:32:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23907 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23184 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 16:27:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:27:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23188" align="alignnone" width="491"]Salim3 Auburn councillors, including Deputy Mayor Salim Mehajer have been suspended while a public inquiry investigates planning and development decisions. Photo: Facebook.[/caption]   The NSW government has been too soft on local government fraud, corruption and bad behaviour, says a researcher specialising in governance and political structures. Nicole Campbell, Associate at the University Technology of Sydney’s (UTS) Centre for Local Government, has spent years researching governance– including examining the scale of fraud and corruption in councils – and said processes need to be tightened up, dodgy councillors brought to book and councillors made more aware of unacceptable behaviour. She said it was difficult to ascertain the extent of fraud and corruption in NSW local government. “The short answer is, we don’t know,” Ms Campbell said. “I think there is a lot of corruption that’s occurring that is not being reported and I don’t say that lightly because I’m passionate about local government.” It’s an area that has attracted a great deal of scrutiny in the midst of some recent high profile cases of local government chicanery. The biggest circus has been that surrounding Auburn Council. It was the story that had it all: limos, helicopters, ambitious developers, flamboyant councillors, dubious planning decisions and a few whistleblowing councillors risking their necks to speak out. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole suspended every Auburn councillor in February and has appointed an administrator while a public inquiry investigates allegations that some councillors made planning and development decisions for their own benefit. The news isn’t much better at Hurstville or North Sydney Councils. The Office of Local Government (OLG) is currently pursuing property developer and former Hurstville Mayor Con Hindi  for alleged misconduct. Mr Toole ordered a public inquiry into allegations of conflict and dysfunction North Sydney in January after infighting paralysed decision making in the council chamber, while over at Rockdale Council, Liberal councillors have stage numerous walkouts to stymie a vote on selling a car park to fund a new aquatic centre and library. The fault lines Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney, Associate Professor Roberta Ryan, said procurement and decision making, particularly around planning and development, offered the greatest opportunity for duplicitousness and self interest. A/Prof Ryan said another fault line in local government could be the relationship between council general managers and the mayor or CEO. “The mayor holds the key to the general manager/CEO’s job and pressure can be put on general managers to do things that they shouldn't,” she said. “All jurisdictions, through the state government local government departments and the professional associations, have systems in place to support senior officials when they face this situation but it can get tricky. “The more worrying aspect is probably corruption - if it is systematic across organisations – [it] means there are a number of people involved and there is a lack of process and systems for proper transparency.” She added, “I would say there is not any evidence that fraud and corruption is widespread in NSW – [no] worse than in other jurisdictions or in other levels of government. We have seen isolated examples across the public sector in Australia. Tightening the system Ms Campbell said current local council processes were not capturing corruption effectively and action was not taken where it was identified. She said one of the biggest mistakes in recent years was passing the Local Government Amendment Act 2011, which allowed councillors who were also property developers to vote on decisions where they had a vested interest, providing they declared it. “I really think it’s an example of state-sanctioned corruption; where the state government has a law that allows property developers or those with a pecuniary interest to vote on a decision and that gives them a clear benefit. This is a massive problem,” Ms Campbell said. “Evidence of councillor misconduct by councillors with pecuniary interests will have increased because they can say they were acting within the law but not ethically or morally. It’s extraordinary that the government felt the need pass that in the first place.” She said it was also important to examine how many complaints about councillor conduct were made to the OLG and how many were substantiated. “I’m dismayed that the government has not taken the opportunity to pursue many of these.” Few cases of councillor misconduct appeared to have reached the Pecuniary Interest and Disciplinary Tribunal or the Administrative Affairs Tribunal. “I think it’s because the process is so unwieldy, people give up.” A former councillor herself, Ms Campbell has lived through some of “the trouble” at Ryde Council between 2011 and 2014. Former Ryde Mayor Ivan Petch is currently being prosecuted for misconduct in public office, blackmail and giving false or misleading evidence to a corruption inquiry. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have also recommended that several former Ryde councillors face charges for breaching electoral funding laws after accepting free advertising from a local newspaper. She said the councillors got off scot-free because the Electoral Funding Authority said it was not worth taking it any further because of cost but also lack of evidence, despite the recommendations of the DPP and ICAC. “There was no follow up action and that sends a message to councillors they can get away with it.” She pointed to a “clunky” code of conduct, where complaints against councillors are investigated internally by the General Manager. Even where complaints are upheld, councillors can still vote to take no action. “If the numbers sit with the person that has done the wrong thing [or they have the casting vote] the report has to go back to council for investigation. Council staff see the note which says “no further action”.” It would be better to have an independent inquiry which made recommendations to the OLG. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for councillors to be sitting in judgement on one of their own.” Another major improvement would be to make it harder councillors to remove general managers. At the moment, councillors can sack general managers without even having to give a reason and the process is not transparent. “There are so many examples of general managers being sacked on a whim by councillors because a particular decision hasn’t gone their way. Paying out GMs is also very expensive. The OLG should have acted many years ago.” But Ms Campbell said Mr Toole had been too blunt in suspending every Auburn councillor when some had spoken out against poor planning and development decisions. She said it punished all of the councillors and deprived ratepayers of their elected representatives. It was likely that the appointed administrator would hand straight over to the new council – Auburn is slated to merge with Holroyd and parts of Parramatta – and suspended councillors may never return. “You should remove those councillors whose conduct is unworthy of holding public office but those councillors that are doing the right thing should be able carry on their roles as elected representatives,” she said. An amendment to the Councillor Misconduct Bill, which went through in December 2015, gave Mr Toole the power to suspend individual councillors, not just the whole council. Ms Campbell said: “The vast majority of elected representatives work very, very hard for their local communities. It’s a few rotten apples that spoil the barrel and that’s a shame because local government is an important sector.” Will fraud and corruption grow under larger, merged councils? Both women take the view that there is no reason that larger councils with more power and bigger budgets should equate to an increase in fraud or corruption. A/Prof Ryan said: “[It’s] not likely to be worse - bigger councils can have more complex systems of accountability - it goes to the legislative frameworks and the codes of conduct - they will either stay the same or it will be strengthened. “Regarding councillors - their role is strategic leadership - not operational management. There are checks and balances in the system to ensure accountability - and a focus on training to ensure councillors understand not just the codes of conduct but how to behave ethically. “Public sector rules for officers are very clear on how to make transparent decisions and there are layers of sign offs - delegations etc.” Ms Campbell agreed that good governance was critical to running a tight ship. “If you’ve got an executive management team and a group of councillors that are aware of the rules and their responsibilities and which work together within a strong governance framework, I don’t think it matters how big the council is.” Possible solutions Both agreed that compulsory training on the code of conduct and ethics was the best way to guard against wrongdoing. Mentoring using alliances between several councils could help too. Ms Campbell said: “Councillors are responsible for multi-million dollar budgets. It’s critical to get councillors and people who want to be councillors aware of the rules and responsibilities of their positions and ethical decision making processes before they get elected. [At the moment] they learn as they go along.” The most common misunderstandings, she said, were around donations towards election campaigns - including in-kind donations - and more education was needed from the Electoral Commission and the OLG to counter these. Bullying, hectoring and noisy behaviour should be clamped down on too, Ms Campbell said. “Behaviour in chambers is appalling and the bullying that goes on has no place in any level of government I think councillors take their cues from noisy Question Time. They think this is how to behave. Well, it most certainly is not.” She said the government needed to take a much stronger role in addressing rude and hectoring behaviour, including sanctioning councillors that rendered meetings inquorate to delay decisions. “Ministers can regulate that behaviour and it’s a shame there hasn’t been more focus on improving the governance of councils,” Ms Campbell said. ACELG runs an elected members program which looks at ethics, governance and the theory behind administrative processes. A/Prof Ryan said: “You can only regulate people's behaviour up to a point. People have to be constantly engaged in process to help them understand what corrupt behaviour looks like and what they can do to guard against it. There should also be strong enforceable protections for whistle blowers.” [post_title] => Best of 2016: Corruption allegations at Sydney councils tip of the iceberg, says researcher [post_excerpt] => Developers voting on councils “state-sanctioned corruption.” [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => corruption-investigations-at-auburn-hurstville-and-rockdale-councils-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-says-researcher [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:32:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:32:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23184 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 9 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23674 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2016-12-20 14:06:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-20 03:06:42 [post_content] => KPMG By Martin Bass Tuning in to the news recently it was hard to avoid the barrage of media attention regarding management consultants BIS Shrapnel’s economic modelling of Labor's proposed changes to negative gearing policy. Across radio and television reports, much time and attention was given to criticism of the ‘dark art’ of economic modelling and its apparent capacity to deliver whatever results or findings are required by those commissioning it. In NSW at present, economic modelling is providing strong support and justification for the Baird Government’s plans for council amalgamations. Consulting company KPMG was contracted to perform the economic modelling and prepare the 45 amalgamation proposals currently under consideration at a reported cost of $400,000. Reading through the proposals, two characteristics stand out. The first is KPMG’s modelling that indicates the consistently positive economic impacts that will flow to NSW communities as a result of the amalgamations. The second is the absence of any account of the assumptions or detailed data underpinning this modelling. Some disturbing insights into the ‘variability’ of this economic modelling are evident in examining the three-into-one amalgamation proposal for Cooma Monaro, Snowy River and Bombala Councils in the State’s south-east. According to introductory statements in the document, “The proposal .... is supported by independent analysis and modelling by KPMG.”  The proposal provides a strong rationale for the amalgamation of these councils, citing numerous financial and other benefits to both the new council and its communities. With amalgamations on the horizon in early 2015, these three councils commissioned KPMG, for a total cost of $80,000, to do some economic modelling for them and prepare a ‘Merger Business Case Analysis’. In light of the recent criticisms of economic modelling and in a quick game of ‘spot the contradictions’, a comparative assessment of the two reports makes interesting reading. Consider the following statements from the reports: State Government amalgamation proposal: "The efficiencies and savings generated by the merger will allow the new council to invest in improved service levels and/or a greater range of services and address the current infrastructure backlog across the three councils." Council merger business case analysis: "... a merged council is likely to materially underperform against benchmarks relating to asset renewal and infrastructure backlog." or: State Government amalgamation proposal: "This merger proposal will provide the new council with the opportunity to strengthen its balance sheet and provide a more consistent level of financial performance. Overall, the proposed merger is expected to enhance the financial sustainability of the new council." Council merger business case analysis: "The assumptions adopted in the financial analysis are conservative and acknowledge the likely difficulties in generating efficiencies and economies of scale from the proposed merger." or: State Government amalgamation proposal: "These communities are bound by their sense of place as an alpine region. Box 2 provides examples of community organisations, services and facilities that have a presence across the region, which indicate the existence of strong existing connections between the communities in the existing council areas." Council merger business case analysis: "... a merged council entity may also encounter challenges in tailoring programs and initiatives to diverse community interests and profiles across a region spanning more than 15,000 km2." Think about these statements - they are some of the outcomes of two economic modelling exercises performed by one consultant [KPMG] focusing on the same amalgamation scenario. Total public money expended - $480,000. Yet reading these statements, it’s hard to believe that the two reports came from one single source. The apparent contradictions are alarming. What makes this more concerning is that whilst the full KPMG report prepared for the councils is freely available, that prepared for the State Government, along with any supporting analysis and assumptions, has not been publicly released despite numerous requests from councils, communities, the State Opposition and others. In his essay in The Monthly in April 2015 titled Spreadsheets of power - How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate’, Australian economist Richard Denniss observed that “Economic models are at their most powerful when only the powerful are aware of what they contain: thousands of assumptions that range from the immoral and implausible to the well-meaning but estimated. However they are made, the conclusions of a model are only as reliable as its assumptions.” In the end, the economic modellers may get these NSW amalgamations over the line. But these reports should sound warning bells for the State Government, that if they’re about to introduce sweeping changes across the State that may have far-reaching impacts on communities, modelling only for the outcomes they want is probably not good practice. There are risks and costs involved in amalgamations – any council that has been through the process will say the same. If the State Government’s own consultants found them in one case, they can probably find them in the other 44.   Martin Bass is a Sydney-based, independent local government consultant. [post_title] => Best of 2016: Cash for contradictions: KPMG's model for council mergers [post_excerpt] => Model behaviour for $480k. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => cash-for-contradictions-kpmg-council-merger-reports [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 15:38:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 04:38:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23674 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25731 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-02 15:31:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-02 04:31:55 [post_content] =>   john-barilaro1 Will Nationals Leader John Barilaro halt the Orange/Cabonne council merger?     Council merger opponents in regional NSW have pinned their hopes on new Nationals Leader John Barilaro to plead their case with NSW Premier Mike Baird. The Amalgamation – No Thank You (ANTY) group from Cabonne, whose council is slated to merge with Orange and Blayney Councils, met with Mr Barilaro last week and said that he “confirmed that no merger would proceed unless it had first been through him”. ANTY’s Marj Bollinger said Mr Baird, former Deputy Premier Troy Grant and NSW Local Government Minister Paul Tools had repeatedly refused to meet the group but she was impressed by Mr Barilaro’s attitude when she met him. “The meeting was a feeling of fresh air compared to the negativity and rejection we have been experiencing from those who have gone before,” Mrs Bollinger said. “From Mr Barilaro’s comment that before a forced merger was taken to the governor it would have to come to him first we concluded that he’s the one to stop it going ahead.” Mr Barilaro apparently advised the group that he was “happy to look at alternate options if there are options out there – one might be to exclude Cabonne from the merger", although no mention was made about what might happen to Orange or Blayney Counncils. The Monaro MP replaced former National Party Leader Troy Grant last month after Mr Grant resigned following the National’s disastrous showing at the Orange by-election in November when Nationals candidate Scott Barrett was toppled by only 50 votes by Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Philip Donato in a hefty swing against the Nationals. Jock Hayes from ANTY said that Mr Barilaro now had “a much greater understanding” of the group’s case against Cabonne merging with other councils, particularly with Orange, which is carrying some debt. “Mr Barilaro did not confirm whether Cabonne would be forced to amalgamate pending further court action but confirmed that no merger would proceed unless it had first been through him … that he was now much more aware of the reasons why Cabonne has fought so hard to stand alone and would take up the issue with Mr Toole,” Mr Hayes said. ANTY argued in its Fit for the Future submission that Cabonne Council connects a series of 14 towns and villages over more than 6000 sq kms and that amalgamation could lead to council job losses and have a negative domino effect on schools, businesses and communities. Cabonne is loathe to merge with Orange because it fears being sidelined and also because Orange is carrying some debt. Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose called the Deputy Minister’s merger statement evidence of a “major rift” between the Nationals Leader and Mr Baird.  “This split in the NSW Cabinet is a real test for the National Party in NSW – are they really prepared to stand up to the Liberals and stop the forced mergers?” Mr Primrose said. “Deputy Premier Barilaro has made it clear that there will be no more forced mergers without the approval of the National Party. The people of Cabonne have fought this forced merger all the way. The Nationals should not let them down again this time.” But he appeared to suggest the Cabonne anti-merger group’s optimism was unfounded. “The last time Mr Barilaro promised to oppose forced council mergers was in his campaign speech to Bombala RSL Club on 18 March 2015. Then he was elected to Parliament and voted for forced mergers ever since.” Mr Barilaro has been contacted for comment.  [post_title] => NSW council merger goes through me first, says Barilaro [post_excerpt] => New hope for regional merger opponents. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-council-merger-goes-first-says-barilaro [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-06 10:07:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-05 23:07:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25731 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 4 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25212 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-10-07 12:01:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-07 01:01:06 [post_content] => oberon-2 Is Oberon Council about to disappear?     NSW rural councils have been dealt a serious blow to their hopes of preventing the state government forcibly merging them with their neighbours and they have been ordered to pay the state government’s court costs. Justice Brian Preston, Chief Judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, dismissed Oberon, Gundagai and Cabonne Shire’s case today (Friday) and ordered the council to pick up the state government’s bill. The councils have until Friday next week to appeal. You can read the judgement here. The outcome is a potentially expensive one for the three councils. When Shellharbour lost its court case to merge with neighbouring Wollongong in September the Illawarra Mercury reported that the government was understood to be seeking about $65,000 in costs, a figure which a spokesperson for Local Government Minister Paul Toole said he would not dispute. During their case, the three rural councils had argued that Mr Toole misused Sections 218F of the Local Government Act to push through forced amalgamations and that the subsequent Boundaries Commission process was procedurally unfair. The councils also questioned the independence of consultants KPMG and their report which analysed the costs and benefits of mergers, a report which remains substantially unreleased. But Justice Preston praised KPMG’s work and said the firm’s expertise and experience grew with each piece of work it did for the government. “KPMG developed a special understanding of and insights into the Government’s local government reform project, which enabled KPMG to better provide the contracted services to the Government,” he said. Handing down his judgement, Justice Preston said that there was no requirement to seek the views of ratepayers on council mergers, for example through public meetings, polls or surveys, when merger proposals were put forward by the Local Government Minister. This was only mandated when a two or more councils initiated a merger. He concluded:  “The applicants have not established any of the grounds of challenge to the administrative decisions and actions in relation to the Oberon proposal, the Cabonne proposal or the Gundagai proposal. Each of the proceedings should be dismissed. The usual order for costs in judicial review proceedings, namely that costs follow the event, should apply.” The merger proposals the councils were fighting included Oberon with Bathurst, Cabonne with Blayney and Orange. Gundagai Council was merged on May 12 with Cootamundra to form Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council. Gundagai was fighting another proposal to merge it with Harden Shire, as well as Cootamundra. While Oberon, Gundagai and Cabonne objected to their mergers the councils they are slated to merge with support them. A member of Anti Amalgamation Oberon posted an early reaction to the news on the group’s Facebook page. “Can you believe this? All of the housing developments going ahead in Oberon, yet we are not fit for the future. What can I say but ‘bugger’. At least impartial. Bathurst will be happy to accept the verdict of the court!” The group had argued that a merger with Bathurst would double the size of the local government area and the road network and that there would be only 3550 more ratepayers to pay for the maintenance of the additional roads. Much of Oberon – around 42 per cent - is unrateable because of the high proportion of national parks and forestry. The group said achieving the predicted savings from the merger would will mean job losses, possibly for the staff of both councils. Meanwhile, Mr Toole welcomed the court's decision. “All 10 grounds upon which the councils were relying for their cases were rejected,” Mr Toole said. “Claims that I, the delegates and the Boundaries Commission had acted in such a way to make the proposals invalid were dismissed entirely.” [post_title] => NSW rural councils lose merger case, pay costs [post_excerpt] => Case dismissed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-rural-councils-lose-merger-case-pay-costs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-10-11 10:19:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-10-10 23:19:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25212 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25074 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-09-21 15:02:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-21 05:02:04 [post_content] => Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room   Four NSW councils holding out against the state government’s attempt to merge them have been dealt a serious blow to their chances in legal judgements handed down yesterday (Tuesday) but other rebellious councils scored a victory of sorts. Shellharbour, Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove Councils all had their cases dismissed by Justice Tim Moore in the Land and Environment Court, clearing the way for NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole to amalgamate them with their neighbours. But NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole has promised to hold off for a week, giving the councils time to appeal. During the court cases councils argued that the public inquiry process had not been fair, delegates had not considered all the facts and that the KPMG report relied on by NSW government to substantiate mergers was not independent and was partially withheld. Shellharbour’s merger with Wollongong City Council is looking more probable by the minute after Justice Moore said there was “no defect in the process for this proposed amalgamation” and ordered Shellharbour Council to pay the government’s costs, which may influence whether the council decides to appeal. Ku-ring-gai Council’s legal case that it should not amalgamate with Hornsby also fell flat. Justice Moore called the council’s complaints “without foundation”, although he noted that delegate Garry West had not fully considered the impact of the proposed merger on people located in an area south of the M2 Motorway. However, this finding proved largely irrelevant since the area, which was once part of Hornsby Shire Council, was swallowed up in the new City of Parramatta Council proclaimed in May. But the government was left with egg on its face from two separate appeals, one from Strathfield Council and another from North Sydney and Mosman Councils after the court found fault with the government-appointed delegates’ reports submitted to the Boundaries Commission. Strathfield is battling a merger with Burwood and Canada Bay Councils, while Mosman and North Sydney are fighting to stand separately, rather than merge with Willoughby. Justice Moore concluded that there was "no proper statutory foundation" for either merger to go ahead at the current time because he said both reports contained errors. Greens Local Government Spokesman David Shoebridge called it an “embarrassing blow” for the Baird government and said there were “serious defects” in delegates’ reports. “When a government tries to do a job on local communities and cut legal corners and rush through an undemocratic process it is no wonder they trip up,” Shoebridge said. But Toole remained unbowed by the judgement. “Regarding the action brought by Mosman and Strathfield councils, the court found that the delegate did not adequately consider one and two of 11 factors outlined by the Local Government Act respectively, meaning the proposed mergers remain in the hands of the delegates,” Toole said. “The government will closely examine the findings in relation to these delegates’ reports.” Although the judgement is not a positive for the state government, councils have not escaped the threat of mergers. Delegates could redo the problematic parts of their reports and public inquiries could be held again, although this would drag the process out. Community action group Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) vowed to keep on campaigning against mergers, despite the mixed legal results. SOCC President Carolyn Corrigan said that the amalgamation process had been “a shambles.” “The government refused to fully disclose its KPMG report, refused to conduct a poll of residents, and refused to conduct a proper public inquiry,” she said. “The recent local government elections show that the Baird Government is on the nose with the electorate. It would be well advised to withdraw its arrogant forced amalgamation proposals and adopt a cooperative approach with local government.” Nineteen new NSW councils were created in May and Bayside Council was formed earlier this month after Botany Bay council lost its legal bid to stand separately from Rockdale. Woollahra Council is appealing after losing its case to stand alone, rather than merging with Waverley and Randwick. A further three merger proposals are still going through the courts. [post_title] => Mergers closer for hold-out NSW councils, win for others [post_excerpt] => Appeals possible. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25074 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-23 11:17:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-23 01:17:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25074 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24975 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-09-12 16:17:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-12 06:17:25 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_24976" align="alignnone" width="368"]City of Nice on the French Riviera looking along the beach. Processed in AdobeRGB colorspace. City of Nice on the French Riviera.[/caption]   Glamourous film stars, multi-million dollar yachts and a coastline to die for; could this be the future for Botany Bay that an organisation representing some of the industry’s biggest developers is predicting? Last week NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole announced the merger of Botany Bay and Rockdale Councils to form the new Bayside Council (not to be confused with Victoria’s Bayside City Council) after a lengthy court battle over the merger came to an end. Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson said the decision cleared the way for more residential development around Botany Bay’s waterfront. In fact, he is predicting a bright, perhaps Mediterranean-inspired, future for the area. Johnson said: “Last year the Urban Taskforce proposed mid- rise buildings around the bay that reflected the character of the French Riviera. This reflects the aspirations behind the establishment of Brighton-Le-Sands as a resort town in the 1880s. “The land fronting Botany Bay is ideal for the development of urban living close to the waterfront as well as to the jobs in the Sydney CBD.”   botany-bay-as-french-riviera_opt Saint-Tropez in Botany? Pic: Urban Taskforce image of future bayside development.   Johnson said the new council, which is now headed up by administrator Greg Wright, could now plan for more density around the bay to keep pace with the area’s growing population. The interim General Manager is Meredith Wallace, Rockdale Council’s GM. But the Taskforce is concerned that the Greater Sydney Commission may need to step in and chivvy the new council along on planning matters, otherwise the vision of Saint-Tropez on Botany Bay will never be realised. The Commission is due to release its six district plans later this year and the old council areas fall into two different areas, Rockdale in the Southern District and Botany in the Central District. Local councils must take note of the content of district plans (and the Metropolitan Plan that the GSC will also write) when setting planning controls, such as height, lot size, zoning and floorspace ratios. Johnson said he was behind local government reform in NSW but sounded a note of caution. “We are however concerned that during the restructuring process the focus on the planning system could be diminished and the Department of Planning and the Greater Sydney Commission may need to take a stronger role during the transition phase.” Botany Bay Council took its case to the Land and Environment Court earlier this year, arguing that it had been denied “procedural fairness” during the public inquiry process, which was presided over by delegate Rod Nockles. The council also accused Nockles of ignoring a community poll where 98 per cent of residents voted against merging with Rockdale. Botany Bay Council had submitted an alternative merger proposal to extend its borders and take in Port Botany, Sydney Airport, two-thirds of Randwick and a chunk of the City of Sydney but this never got up. Meanwhile, NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole, slammed the council for taking its grievances to court three times and said he welcomed the verdict. “This litigation has been costly for the council and its ratepayers, with legal bills potentially running into hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. Elections for the new Bayside Council will not be held until September 2017, when 15 councillors will be elected.   [post_title] => Could council merger create Sydney’s French Riviera on Botany Bay? [post_excerpt] => Mid-rise development predicted. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => council-merger-create-bay-sydneys-new-french-riviera-botany-bay [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-14 14:09:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-14 04:09:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24975 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24851 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-08-31 12:43:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-08-31 02:43:09 [post_content] =>  Clover Moore at Mardi Gras_opt (1)   Pre-polling is now open for the NSW local council elections, as the NSW Electoral Commission raised concerns people may not realise they must vote. Seventy-eight councils will go to the polls next weekend (Saturday, September 10) but 48 councils have had their elections deferred, including many metropolitan Sydney councils. Elections have been postponed until September 2017 for the 19 new councils created in May, as well as for councils who are in limbo because they are challenging their mergers in court and councils under administration. A handful of elections in rural areas are uncontested for either the whole council or one or more ward. The split means that the Commission is anticipating some confusion among voters about whether they need to vote or not, particularly where voters live in areas whose bordering councils are doing the opposite. Some may not vote and be fined, others may turn up to vote and discover there is no election. Pre-polling closes at 6pm on Friday, September 9. NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole said people should check whether they needed to vote or not. “I would urge anyone who is uncertain about whether they are required to vote on September 10 to visit www.votensw.info where they can check their enrolment details and look up their enrolled street address to find out whether they will need to vote,” Mr Toole said. “This resource is provided by the NSW Electoral Commission, which has responsibility for making people aware of local government elections, and it is reminding the community that voting is compulsory.” Meanwhile, tales of developers, breakaway candidates and smear campaigns have brought a soap opera quality to this year’s local government elections. City of Sydney remains the glittering prize with the major parties desperate to pry power away from Independent Mayor Clover Moore and unseat her from the Town Hall, scuppering her twelve-year reign. For the first time, businesses in the City of Sydney area are mandated to vote and they get two votes when they do, a change pushed for by City of Sydney councillor Ed Mandla and supported by NSW Premier Mike Baird. The impact of an extra 23,000 (business) voters – around one-quarter of the total vote - on the council election remains to be seen but it is likely to make a dent in incumbent Mayor Clover Moore’s chances, though not enough to topple her. Although Moore is a good bet to retain the mayoralty she is likely to finish up with fewer councillors on her ticket which would tip the balance of power at Town Hall. There are ten spots all up, including the Mayor. In 2012, Moore scooped more than 50 per cent first preference votes and five of her team secured places on the council. Moore’s ticket includes influential candidates Dr Kerryn Phelps, former President of the Australian Medical Association and a public health and gay rights activist, and prominent Sydney architect Phillip Thalis, a sign that the Mayor may be coaching her successor. Moore faces off against ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, representing the Liberals; Independent Angela Vithoulkas, who Mandla defected to (after directing a few choice barbs at his Liberal colleagues about lobbyists and factions) and Labor’s Linda Scott, who has rugby league star Ian Roberts on her ticket. Out west, candidates are limbering up for a fight but this time without Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun. The Liberal mayor recently announced that he will not stand for council this time around, claiming he wanted to spend more time with his family. Mannoun’s decision follows a raft of accusations aired against him and his family by Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak, who attacked Mannoun under parliamentary privilege in September last year. Mannoun has denounced Borsak for running a smear campaign. The mayor’s home and offices were raided by ICAC in August, apparently at the Mayor’s request. Instead, it has been left to Liberal Tony Hadchiti to take a run at the mayor’s job, with Mannoun’s backing. Another focal point of these elections will be around developers and real estate agents, particularly following events at the previous Auburn Council and the highly publicised excesses of former Deputy Mayor and property developer Salim Mehajer. Although the new Cumberland Council, formed by merging parts of Auburn, Parramatta and Holroyd Councils, will not be holding an election until September next year observers are sure to be watching to see if councillors in other areas declare any property interests. The Baird government brought in new rules in June requiring a cap on political donations and ruling that property developers and real estate agents must reveal their profession when running for election. They are not allowed to vote on issues where they have a pecuniary interest but the government stopped short of banning them from sitting on councils. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has banned Labour candidates from being real estate agents or property developers, a ban backed also by the Greens. NSW Labor banned property developers from becoming candidates at a local, state and federal level in 2013. Fairfield Council’s elections have already attracted their share of controversy ahead of the voting. Fairfield Labor Mayor Frank Carbone was disendorsed by his party in the run-up to the local council elections, allegedly because some State Labor MPs got jumpy about his property interests. While Carbone has protested that he is not a developer his brother Pat (Pasquale) is a well-known developer. Events took a bizarre turn when Frank Carbone decided to run against Labor-endorsed candidate Del Bennett on an independent ticket with suspended Liberal councillor Dai Le.   Dai Le and Frank Carbone_opt Fairfield's unlikely duo: Dai Le and Frank Carbone.   Dai Le was handed a ten-year suspension from the party after running against an endorsed Liberal councillor. Carbone was expelled from NSW ALP this week for opposing Bennett, the endorsed Labour candidate. The 2016 local government elections are also liable to generate a chorus of complaints from residents whose councils are headed by administrators until September 2017. One thing is for sure, they won’t be dull. [post_title] => NSW local council elections promise drama and confusion [post_excerpt] => City of Sydney, the glittering prize. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-local-council-elections-promise-high-drama-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-09-01 15:20:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-09-01 05:20:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24851 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27264 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-30 12:48:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-30 02:48:56 [post_content] =>   By Andy Young The NSW Liquor Amendment (Reviews) Bill, which was passed by the State Parliament last week, will see strikes recorded against licensed venues removed. The changes to the laws will see strikes now recorded against the licensee rather than the venue, as The Shout reported earlier this week. Minister Paul Toole said it would be “impractical” for the previous strikes to remain in place when moving forward with the new scheme as it would mean that two different schemes would be in place at the same time. Arthur Laundy, whose hotel The Steyne in Manly received a strike, told TheShout that he felt "vindicated in as much as right from the start I have said that I don’t believe this is a fair rule". "I’ve said it right from the start, the government got it right with the clubs, but they didn’t get it right with the hotels," Laundy said. As I explained to someone yesterday who was struggling to understand the issue: you own a trucking company and you employ drivers, if a driver goes out and has a serious accident, who should get the penalty? The driver of the truck, or the owner of the truck? He said, good analogy, I understand." He added: "I own the hotel, but I’m not at the hotel. I’m not the licensee. I’ve never considered it was a fair rule. I’ve argued now for some years on exactly that line. People have called me this morning to say it was a good victory, and I’ve said it was fair. I don’t think I asked for anything that was unfair." Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => New rules see licence strikes cleared [post_excerpt] => Pubs vindicated. 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Paul-Toole