Posted on June 21, 2013 by

Early Intervention Bill passed with some amendments

The Local Government Amendment (Early Intervention) Bill 2013 (Bill) has now passed through both Houses of Parliament and is awaiting Royal Assent.

The Legislative Assembly yesterday agreed to the amendments proposed by the Legislative Council. The amendments significantly curtail the Minister’s power to suspend councils or extend the length of a suspension beyond 3 months.

Our previous discussion of the Bill can be read here. The purpose of this discussion is to consider the few, but not insignificant amendments.

Criteria to be considered by the Minister

The Bill, as amended, now states that the regulations may make provision for or with respect to the criteria to be considered by the Minister in:

  • issuing performance improvement orders (performance improvement criteria)
  • suspending councils (suspension criteria).

A performance improvement order may be issued only after consideration of the performance improvement criteria. Similarly, a council may be suspended only after consideration of the suspension criteria.

The regulations have not been published.

Restriction on the power of the Minister to suspend a council or to extend a suspension

The proposed section granting the Minister the power to suspend a council has been amended to omit the words ‘improve or’ as below:

The Minister may, by order published in the Gazette, suspend a council for a period specified in the order if the Minister reasonably believes that the appointment of an interim administrator is necessary to improve or restore the proper or effective functioning of the council.

As originally drafted, the Minister would have been able to suspend a council even if it was functioning properly and effectively, provided there was room for improvement.

The words ‘improve or’ have also been omitted from the similar provision  granting the Minister a power to extend a council’s suspension beyond 3 months. Accordingly the power to extend the suspension will only exist where it continues, on or before the end of the three (3) month period, to be necessary in the opinion of the Minister, to restore the proper or effective functioning of the Council (rather than merely to improve such functioning).