Queensland has too many poorly thought through pieces of legislation, arguably due to the lack of an upper house and the failure of Parliamentary Committees, ruled by the Government of the day, to properly scrutinise legislation. This is clear today, as we have learned the Government is having to rush through changes to local government legislation to ensure Rockhampton residents get to choose their new Mayor after the current Mayor announced her resignation. As reported by the Brisbane Times yesterday:
Queensland Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has been accused of “backtracking” on rushed laws to close a door allowing the runner-up in a mayoral election to take the robes if a first-year leader leaves the job.
In one of the first actions of a returned Palaszczuk government, the move would ensure the resignation of Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow on Monday night would instead trigger a byelection, rather than elevating an anti-Adani activist who ran second in the March poll.
The problem arose from a change to the Local Government Act which was designed to discourage Councillors from running in the state election, by requiring any vacancy created by the resignation of a Councillor less than one year into their current term to be filled by the runner up in the last election for their position. Now, due to the unintended consequences of the relevant provision, the Government has to amend it urgently.
Unfortunately, the lack of proper scrutiny of legislation in Queensland leads to some poorly thought through pieces of legislation. I expect many QEW readers can name several pieces of state legislation they loathe, but here are a couple of examples which come to my mind:
- The excessive power granted to Queensland’s Chief Health Officer under Section 362 of the Public Health Act 2005 (see Joe Branigan’s guest post The Triumvirate’s Stratagem cannot stand); and
- Queensland’s weak Right To Information (RTI) law under which the Government has huge scope to keep embarrassing documents out of the public domain, including, for example, the Chief Health Officer’s advice on border closures (see NSW border policy still lacks solid justification) and information on its financial subsidy to Disney for Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (see Hollywood subsidies by Qld Gov’t kept hidden – Qld Right-To-Info process a huge joke).
As I’ve written many times before, we desperately need to improve the quality of our governance in Queensland (see Deficient Qld state public administration is a major theme of my new book). We should consider reintroducing an upper house or look for some other way of providing oversight of our Parliament and Executive – e.g. via some sort of Committee of the Great and the Good. This is even more important now we have four-year terms.