Published: 07 July 2022

Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest has accused all levels of government of a "lack of accountability", referring to a councillor's decision to remain in his role and the ongoing Commission of Inquiry.

Following a meeting between Waratah-Wynyard Council representatives and Local Government Minister Nic Street in relation to Darren Fairbrother's future, Ms Forrest weighed into the discussion.

"Community standards demand personal responsibility in the case of Cr Fairbrother - however we also need robust, rigourous and effective processes and legislative measures to require accountability, transparency and outcomes in line with community expectations," Ms Forrest said.

"Courts will determine the charge if a charge is made but our legislation needs to be clear in its intent.

"Codes of conduct need to be strengthened to ensure any elected member at any level of government is held to account and measures available to remove them from their position where such a breach requires this action.

"Clearly, Cr Fairbrother's behaviour, as confirmed by the court, is not acceptable, particularly for an elected member and in my view, he should resign.

"Where personal responsibility has failed to achieve this outcome, the code of conduct and thus the supporting legislation needs to be changed to give effect to this.

"We have also witnessed many aspects of poor behaviour in Local Government related to bullying and other inappropriate behaviour.

"All that, could and should be adequately captured in a robust code of conduct with real power and teeth."

While the Local Government Act review has been put on the backburner during the broader review of Local Government, Ms Forrest said changes need to happen before or soon after the upcoming local government elections.

"As we saw with the decision to move on compulsory voting at the October local government elections, the minister needs to act on this matter urgently," Ms Forrest said.

"We don't want to wait for the local government review or the ongoing review of the Local Government Act - it should be a matter of urgency.

"If they strengthened it now, it doesn't mean they couldn't strengthen it even further if that is what the review process suggested."

 The Advocate, Thursday 7 July 2022


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