Question Without Notice
Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG: My question is directed to the Minister for Local Government.
The SPEAKER: Order! Government members will come to order. I am sure the Minister would like to hear the question.
Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG: In light of the announcement yesterday that the Government will retract its own legislation, how many property developers elected as councillors since 2012 have benefited from decisions made where they declared a pecuniary interest?
The SPEAKER: Order! That is the type of question the member for Macquarie Fields could have put on notice.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: Same old suit, same old tie, same old Labor.
Mr Ryan Park: Same old tie.
The SPEAKER: Order! Same old three calls to order for the member for Keira.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: As I said in responding to the previous question, the New South Wales Government is amending the laws relating to voting by councillors who have pecuniary interests. I also point out that this Government has committed to changing the Local Government Act so that by the September 2016 elections these changes will be made as part of the reform of local government. I also point out that the Government has been on this journey for the past four years. We are committed to a stronger, smarter system of local government in New South Wales. We have invested more than $1 billion in reform of the sector.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cessnock will come to order.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: We have put $258 million in financial incentives on the table for councils to come together in mergers. Piloting of joint organisations is occurring across this State. Currently there are five pilots: there is one in central New South Wales and one in the Hunter.
Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: My point is taken under Standing Order 129. The Minister may take the question on notice if he wishes, but it was very specific.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister chose not to take the question on notice, so there is no point of order. The member for Maroubra will resume his seat.
Mr Michael Daley: There are standing orders on this issue.
The SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The Minister's comments remain relevant to the question that he was asked.
Mr Michael Daley: The Minister is going nowhere near it.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister's comments have been relevant.
Mr Michael Daley: He should just answer the question.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Maroubra likes to argue with me; it is a sport.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: As I said, this Government is committed to reform of local government and is committed to working with councils across the State, because as a part of this journey we have been working in partnership with councils throughout this process. We have financial incentives on the table for those councils that wish to adopt a merger proposal. We have piloting of the joint organisations. As I said, Labor allowed the infrastructure backlog to blow out to $7.4 billion; it allowed council infrastructure to crumble, and it did nothing to address it.
Ms Linda Burney: Point of order—
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister's comments remain relevant to the question asked. Is the member for Canterbury seeking to take a point of order on relevance, under Standing Order 129?
Ms Linda Burney: Yes, Madam Speaker.
The SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The Minister's comments remain relevant to the question.
Ms Linda Burney: If the Minister cannot answer the question, you should direct him to resume his seat.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Macquarie Fields could have put the question on notice. However, I am sure the strategists behind me and to my left asked him to proceed in this manner. The Minister's response remains relevant. It is too late now to raise a point that the question should be put on notice.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: As I said earlier, in 2013 the cost of dealing with councillor misconduct across this State was about $745,000 per council. In 2014 the cost of dealing with councillor misconduct was just below $1.2 million per council. That is ratepayers' money being used to deal with code of conduct complaints across this State. I point out also that TCorp, following an analysis of New South Wales councils, noted that in 2014 about 25 per cent of councils were in either a weak or a very weak financial position.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cessnock will come to order. This is not a debate or an argument.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: If nothing was to change, the predictions are that within three years 50 per cent of New South Wales councils would be in a weak or a very weak financial position.
Mr Anoulack Chanthivong: Point of order: My point is taken under Standing Order 129. The question asked the Minister for a number. If he does not know the number, he can take the question on notice.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister's response remains relevant to the question. That is all I can ask of the Minister.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: This is question number four, and I have had three of them. That is what I note. Labor's relationship with the local government sector had broken down. I hear the member for Charlestown.
The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order.
Mr PAUL TOOLE: We have had to teach the member for Charlestown about local government since she became a member of this place, because when she was first elected the member thought she might have to have a by-election for that seat if she were to stand down, and that that was going to cost the ratepayers a quarter of a million dollars. Let me, as Minister, inform the member that she does not need to resign, and it will not cost her ratepayers to have a by-election. [Time expired.]
Ms Linda Burney: Point of order—
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister's time has expired so the member for Canterbury cannot take a point of order.
Ms Linda Burney: I was just going to say to the Minister, "You are an embarrassment."
The SPEAKER: Order! The member does not need to say anything; the Minister has concluded his answer. Members will come to order. I direct the member for Cessnock to remove himself from the Chamber until the end of question time.