BE PREPARED: Councillors will have to undergo mandatory training, alongside council candidates.
BE PREPARED: Councillors will have to undergo mandatory training, alongside council candidates.

Southern Downs council welcomes anti-corruption reforms

IT'S a tough gig that awaits aspiring Southern Downs councillors but new training reforms hope to prepare candidates ahead of the 2020 election.

So you want to be a councillor? is a mandatory training program introduced as part of the Belcarra reforms to educate potential candidates and councillors about the responsibilities of local government.

Operation Belcarra investigated integrity in local government elections and training is one of the steps recommended to prevent corruption and increase public confidence.

The training is "absolutely essential" for a government body that has far exceeded its previous purpose of just "roads, rates and rubbish," according to Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie.

"You have to pretty much hit the ground running," Cr Dobie said.

"You have to be prepared to make decisions that will impact the entire region."

Cr Dobie said the training would cover the ins and outs of the Local Government Act, explaining limitations imposed on council decision-making.

"It's a very restrictive act in what councillors can and can't do, so it's important for those who stand for council to nominate with their eyes wide open," she said.

A new media monitor from the Local Government Association Queensland will oversee candidates throughout their campaign to ensure they do not over-promise and under-deliver.

"There are candidates who say they're going to do certain things for their community, when in fact the LGA doesn't allow them to do that," Cr Dobie said.

"Even if you get elected you don't have the power to do everything."

The training is a welcome addition for councillor Vic Pennisi, who said he's seen many candidates arrive thinking they'll be able to "come in and change the world with one vote."

"The role isn't as black and white as people think it is," Cr Pennisi said.

"I don't think you really know what you're getting yourself into until you're there, so getting a bit of grounding before you get your hand up will be beneficial.

"I think the role is getting the balance right between representing the people and complying with the regulations that are state government puts on us."

2020 candidate Andrew Gale said he was happy training was being introduced "because it'll clean it up."

"It was concerning to see a lot of the things that came out of Operation Belcarra, councillors weren't compliant and this is the consequence," he said.

"Training never hurts anyone, but I fail to understand how some people don't understand the difference between right and wrong."



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