2.1 Develop an improved councillor training framework which will require participation in candidate pre-election sessions and, if elected, ongoing councillor professional development
Providing brief – but mandatory – pre-election candidate awareness training would support an increased ‘baseline’ understanding of the roles and responsibilities of councillors.
Providing compulsory, ongoing, and accessible professional development training opportunities would support the continual improvement and professionalism of elected representatives, ensuring they can achieve the best outcomes for their communities.
Most Australian jurisdictions have some form of mandatory training for elected representatives.
Victoria and Queensland require mandatory training for candidates prior to nominating for councillor. Both jurisdictions introduced mandatory training prior to their 2020 local government elections. Both of these training programs are delivered through online modules and take an hour to complete.
Regarding post-election training, councillors in NSW are required by law “to make all reasonable efforts to acquire and maintain the skills necessary to perform the role of a councillor”. Information about NSW councillor participation in induction and professional development activities must be published in councils’ annual reports. This ensures councils transparently inform their communities of the training their councillors are undertaking.
Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory all have forms of induction training mandated to be completed within the first 12 months of the councillor’s term.
2.2 Review the number of councillors representing a council area and the remuneration provided
The Board has heard that there may be merit in reducing councillor numbers in some councils to create a more effective governance model. This may also provide scope to explore increases in remuneration which do not materially impact ratepayers. The Board has heard increased remuneration for councillors could support a more diverse cross-section of the community seeking election. It may also help the sector attract and retain talented and experienced councillors.
There are provisions in the Tasmanian Local Government Act 1993 that enable inquiries into councillor allowances to be undertaken. The last inquiry, held in 2018, recommended that the formula for categorisation of councils and base allowances be reviewed. This review has yet to occur, but presents an opportunity to increase allowances and narrow disparities in allowance rates between councils. The ability to increase councillor allowances is currently confined to these inquiry processes.
There was broad agreement that current councillor allowances:
Evidence shows that low remuneration for councillors is a problem across the sector. A 2021 study by the Australian National University found NSW councillors were being paid less than the minimum wage compared to the hours of work their role entails. The same study also found 81% of councillors found their role dissatisfying due to low remuneration. This study has supported recent reviews of elected representative allowances in Victoria and NSW.
2.3 Review statutory sanctions and dismissal powers
The overall reputation of the sector has been damaged by instances of poor councillor behaviour. This has been compounded by the constrained capacity of the State Government to intervene under existing legislation in certain circumstances.
Under the approved reforms from the Local Government Legislation Review, the Tasmanian Government has already agreed to a range of stronger sanctions and dismissal powers. This will give greater powers to the State Government to intervene in issues of serious misconduct and strengthen the existing frameworks. The Board is exploring whether these approved reforms will adequately respond to issues raised during the engagement process.
2.4 Establish systems and methods to support equitable and comprehensive representation of communities
There are a number of systems and methods that could further support equitable and effective representation of communities in Tasmania. These include undertaking periodic representation reviews, establishing committees to represent specific communities within larger council areas, dividing existing or new LGAs into wards, and setting up engagement hubs throughout local government areas.
The South Australian Local Government Act 1999 requires each council to conduct an Elector Representation Review at least once every eight years. A Representation Review determines whether a council’s community would benefit from a change to its composition or ward structure, and examines such matters as the method of electing the Mayor, the number of council members and whether wards are appropriate.
The Tasmanian Local Government Act 1993 allows councils to be divided into two or more electoral districts. However, Tasmania is the only State with no councils divided into wards.