Local Government status ‘butchered’

26th February 2008 Bligh government moves to axe the ‘Constitutional Corporation’ status of local governments were unprecedented anywhere in the world and could put council assets worth $80 billon at risk, Shadow Minister for Main Roads & Local Government, Howard Hobbs warned today.
“Anna Bligh is effectively butchering our local governments’ legal status to ensure councils are outside the former Federal Government’s Work Choices legislation,” Mr Hobbs said.
“It’s being driven by a dirty deal with the unions to transfer all Queensland council workers into the State Industrial Relations system .. but it’s totally unnecessary because the Rudd government has committed to repeal Work Choices making the Bligh government’s proposed legislation redundant and unnecessary.
“Local governments in Australia and throughout the world have been constituted as corporations and empowered as body corporates with perpetual succession, a common seal, and may sue or be sued by name. But the Bligh government’s Local Government and Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 2008 will destroy their existence in law as separate legal entities.
“Currently Australian law only recognises two entities which have the ability to contract – natural persons and body corporates. Without corporation status, local governments will not be separate legal entities. They won’t be able to contract and will be incapable of being employers.
“Who’ll be liable for council actions and, importantly, property where local governments are the registered owners may need to be transferred to the legal entity which replaces them. The same applies to liabilities.
“The Bligh government claims de-corporatisation of local governments will not affect their existing rights and responsibilities and they will retain existing powers.
“But that’s clearly not the view of the Local Government Association which is insisting the State Government indemnifies local governments for any loss suffered from unintended adverse consequences of this legislation,” Mr Hobbs said.
Mr Hobbs warned the changes proposed by the Bligh government had not been tested in law and councillors as individuals who joined any new amalgamated council could find themselves subject to liability.
“The Bligh government’s proposed laws are a legal dog’s breakfast with little thought for the well-being of local governments and the communities they represent.
“Some $80 billion worth of council assets throughout Queensland is being put at risk .. all because the State Labor government has done a deal with the unions to transfer council employees back into the State Industrial Relations system,” Mr Hobbs said.

Media Contact – Howard Hobbs  07 46 22 88 88