Town Council members’ assets remain a secret

By ERWIN CHLANDA2505 Baum cycle OK

 

The item nominated is a Baum bicycle (similar to the one pictured).

 

It is listed under “the nature of any other assets … each valued at over $7500”.

 

The declarant is Abbott, Anthony John (Tony).

 

The Register is of “Members’ Interests – 45th Parliament”.

 

That’s a set of public documents which assist voters to get a clearer picture of the people they are voting for, or not voting for, and as such a crucial resource in our democratic system.

 

It also records shareholdings, family and business trusts, nominee companies, real estate, directorships, partnerships, liabilities, bonds, debentures and like investments, “any other substantial sources of income,” gifts and more.

 

The NT Legislative Assembly has a similar register, called Statement of Registrable Interests, and so has the SA Parliament.

 

Our neighbour state has a similar requirement for its local governments whose elected members need to answer questions very similar to those asked of Federal pollies.

 

Members tripping up in their declarations, inadvertently or being deliberately dishonest, get into big trouble and quite a few have lost their jobs.

 

But lo and behold, our government closest to the people, no less, doesn’t have such a register.

 

Inexplicably, NT legislation does not require it: “There is no requirement for councillors to declare a register of any assets and/or liabilities that they have, nor any gifts that they receive under the Local Government Act,” says a spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

 

“As such, there is no such register for councillors in the Northern Territory.

 

“Some councils do have their own policies about gifts and registers so it would be best to approach a particular council to see if they have a policy or a register.”

 

The stark necessity for a register has been acknowledged by the Alice Springs Town Council.

 

The occasion was the partnership of a councillor, Geoff Booth, in a proposed escort agency (in others words, brothel) in Alice Springs. The project was abandoned and Cr Booth resigned (triggering the need for a by-election costing the ratepayer around $100,000).

 

We reported in August 2013 that council CEO Rex Mooney “foreshadows a proposal to establish a Register of Members’ property and business interests similar to those in force in other states. This would also include senior staff.”

 

More than four years later the council still doesn’t have an assets register. The council did not answer our questions about the proposed register but a spokeswoman says Mr Mooney “would be happy to discuss this with you on his return to the office next Tuesday”.

 

Declaring an interest in deliberations by the Alice Springs council happens on an ad-hoc basis. Members declare any interest of their own volition in relation to issues raised, when they are raised.

 

Of course, having no register of members’ interests and assets to check this against, the public has little chance to test councillors’ claims or omissions, be they deliberate or inadvertent.

 

And so facts such as Mayor Damien Ryan’s earnings of $102,000 a year from sitting on NT government boards, which is $2000 more than he earns as Mayor, gets public attention only when we report it.

 

The last entry in the council’s so-called “Register of Elected Members’ Interest” is on July 31, 2017: “Cr Dave Douglas … laneway security proposal – Fogarty Street Laneway … adjoining property owner.”

 

All that means is that Cr Douglas absented himself from the discussion of Item 9.14 on that meeting’s agenda.

 

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Surprised!
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 11:06 am

    IMHO, persons employed by the taxpayer, should not be allowed to receive any remuneration for sitting on external boards.
    In the private sector, it would be totally different.
    As we the taxpayers are paying for the council members, why do we have to pay the extra remuneration?
    As to electoral reforms question. A good reason is that the council doesn’t declare their asset register, is because it has things to hide. So much for transparency!
    In reality, I hope they do have a register, to keep track of all the assets WE as ratepayers own. To not have one will be considered gross negligence.

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  2. Graham Tjilpi Buckley
    Posted January 19, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Hey, exceptionally nice bike, Tony!

    View Comment
  3. Taylor
    Posted January 17, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Good article Erwin, I bet some of the fat cats on council are shuffling their assets around as we speak. Are you allowed to help organise a campaign to make this happen?

    [ED – I can’t help organising a campaign but I can certainly report about it, and would.]

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  4. Dr Who
    Posted January 16, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Should have been done years ago. If you take a job / position in public life you must be totally transparent.

    View Comment
  5. Electoral Reform
    Posted January 16, 2018 at 11:59 am

    To get this year off to a good start we need to make this happen.
    Can any readers of the Alice Springs News Online give a good reason for not having this register at the Alice Springs Town Council?

    View Comment

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