People often ask about how local government fits into the state government legislation that provides its head of powers and who has oversight of them. These questions are usually asked when something goes wrong, or people feel like they have not been listened to.
Here is a rundown of how local government and state government entities and legislation interact, and who to go to when you have concerns.
State legislation, particularly the Local Government Act 2009 and Local Government Regulation 2012 establish local governments and provide them with their general jurisdiction including the power to make local laws and levy rates and charges. This legislation is administered by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, go to LGA 2009, LG Reg 2012.
Other pieces of state legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the Public Health Act 2005 and the Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2021 delegate or devolve specific functions and responsibilities to local governments. Oversight of this legislation is the responsibility of the various state agencies (e.g. the Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Health).
Oversight of local government is done by several independent state authorities including:
- Queensland Audit Office – which predominantly provides financial oversight of local councils by conducting annual audits of local governments’ financial statements and periodically undertakes performance audits of specific local government functions or activities and make recommendations to the government. The most recent report that was tabled in Parliament identified that some Councils did not review their services regularly and did not consult with the community on the levels of services required ,allocate overhead costs to their services to determine the true cost of these services and monitor and report internally at a service level. You can find them here: Qld Audit Office
- Queensland Ombudsman – investigates any administrative decisions including decisions made under any piece of state legislation or a council’s own local laws including decisions to refuse service, exclusion from a program or service, conduct of an officer, policy or procedure. Common complaints about councils involve injury or damage to property from potholes, obstacles on footpaths, flooding, subsidence. Here is the link: Qld Ombudsman
- Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) – which deals with corruption in the public sector – website link at: CCC
- Independent Assessor – who assesses complaints about councillor and MP conduct. Find link at: Office of IA
- Information Commissioner – particularly In relation to the Right to Information Act 2009 and the Information Privacy Act 2009 – find them at: Info Commissioner
- Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) – reviews administrative decisions referred to it – including any from the Local Government Act 2009 and the Local Government Regulation 2012. They can also recommend changes to legislation, policies, practices and procedures. Go to: QCAT
If anyone disagrees with any administrative decision made by government they can make a complaint to the Qld Ombudsman or to QCAT. If the issue is about corruption or Councillor/MP conduct, it can be referred to CCC or the Independent Assessor.
Parliamentary Committees also have a role in ensuring that there is oversight of the independent authorities, see Qld Parl Committees. This oversight is performed by:
- The State Development and Regional Industries Committee – Independent Assessor.
- The Economics and Governance Committee – Auditor-General; Integrity Commissioner
- The Legal and Safety Committee – Ombudsman, Information Commissioner
- The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee – Crime & Corruption Commissioner
This oversight is delegated to identifying systemic problems and does not investigate individual cases. Currently my own Committee is developing clearer guidelines on this, as well as addressing confusion on the Parliamentary website which lists standard annual updates from these authorities as ‘inquiries’ which they are not.
There are many avenues for residents to take if they are unhappy with Council decisions, but as always, I would first encourage approaching the Council or your local Councillor with your concerns and working with them to find a solution to your particular issue. You can find the Councillor contact list at https://www.noosa.qld.gov.au/downloads/file/927/contact-list-councillors
If the issue resides with state government decisions, you can speak directly to the department as a first step via email@example.com, but can always contact my office for additional assistance.