The Australian Local Government Association board last week released the 80 motions to be debated at the three-day National General Assembly it will be conducting in Canberra starting next Sunday. As was explained in this Crikey piece in April, the City of Melbourne is attending as part of an attempt to promote the practice of transparency and disclosure across the local government sector. A detailed transparency motion was unanimously endorsed by councillors in April as Melbourne’s only motion for debate at ALGA. It was crafted with a view to trying to shift some of the debate at ALGA away from endless demands for more money from Canberra, to some specific governance issues related to the sector, such as disclosing lease registers, releasing audio of council meetings, encouraging more public questions at council meetings and revealing senior executives' pay. Alas, the peak national body for councils in Australia has shown its disdain for good governance, relegating the motion to what is calls the "reserve list", which means it will only be covered if there is time on day three. Indeed, it came in stone motherless last at 80 out of 80, and the ALGA secretariat even managed to mangle the seven-point motion into one barely decipherable continuous paragraph as follows on page 96 of the business papers:
Motion That the National General Assembly endorse the following transparency and disclosure principles as measures to be considered by local government across Australia to demonstrate leadership in good governance and transparency. 1. Public disclosure on council website of a full lease register detailing the terms of any arrangements with third parties who occupy council-owned land and buildings. 2. Annual public disclosure on council website details of independent valuations of council-owned land and buildings above a threshold of $1 million. 3. Disclosure in council annual reports the employment terms of their five most senior officers including name, position, remuneration and length of contract. 4. Making an audio recording of council and committee meetings available alongside the formal minutes where practicable and affordable. 5. Allocation of at least 15 minutes each month to unscripted oral public questions at a full council or committee meeting. 6. Periodic disclosure on council website of expense claims made by councillors. 7. Pre-approval of interstate and international travel by councillors at an open council or committee meeting.
The City of Melbourne will be resolving in public today on how we will vote on the 80 ALGA resolutions. Based on the extraordinary attitude displayed in 2015, next year it might be tempting to adopt the City of Sydney approach of not bothering to attend. Then again, this year’s line-up features Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten, Richard Di Natale, Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Nationals leader Warren Truss, although Truss is the only one of these five federal MPs who has committed to turn up and isn’t still listed on the program as “invited”. *Stephen Mayne chairs the Finance and Governance committee at the City of Melbourne and was not paid for this item.