Australia ‘Take a good look': Minister issues warning ahead of council elections
For Lebanese and Iraqis, small victories in a long struggle
Demonstrators in both nations may have been beaten by the system but they are not ready to concede defeat. In October 2019, Iraq and Lebanon erupted in protests as people asked for jobs, an end to corruption, and the removal of the ruling political elite. The uprisings brought hope to a region left despondent by the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Many thought that the Arab world might, after all, see a new dawn in its politics.
Local councillors who put their own political and personal interests above ratepayers before this year's elections could be potentially removed from office as part an expanded set of powers given to the watchdog.
NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock has urged the state's 1300 councillors to "take a good look at themselves", saying the government had no tolerance for "petty politics" in the months preceding the September election.
Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding speaks about her first year in office
It's been almost a year since Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding was elected to take on one of Australia's most controversial councils.As fate would have it, the former federal candidate was in the Queensland Parliament the day the council was sacked, watching on as a division was called on whether to dismiss Ipswich City Council in August 2018.
"Ratepayers rightfully expect high standards of leadership and behaviour from their elected representatives," she said.
"That's why ahead of the September elections, I am warning all councils to make sure they do the right thing or face disciplinary proceedings."
Late last year the state government strengthened the investigative processes and penalties able to be used by the Office of Local Government in responding to allegations of misconduct against councillors, including allowing the agency to more quickly intervene in council matters and impose more serious penalties, such as public apologies, suspension and even disqualification from office.
The amendments to the Model Code of Conduct were prompted by a 2019 NSW Supreme Court decision that found a Sydney council had limited powers to discipline a councillor who received a three-month suspension of his salary following misconduct findings.
India: BJP’s rise in former communist bastion has Muslims worried
India’s West Bengal – home to 100 million people – has seen rising Hindu nationalism, prompting concerns among Muslims.Around the same time, authorities in the state of West Bengal – about 900km (559 miles) away – fenced a two-acre (0.8-hectare) land parcel in a sleepy neighbourhood of Hooghly district and barred all entry.
Other changes included requiring councils to publicly disclose misconduct findings, and requiring webcast meetings to be kept on council websites for at least 12 months to heighten scrutiny.
Mrs Hancock said the boosted resources of the local government watchdog made it well-placed to investigate and penalise councillors.
"I urge all councillors to take a good look at themselves and focus on doing the job they were elected to do -serving the best interests of their local community," she said.
But NSW Labor's local government spokesman Greg Warren described the minister's caution as a "condescending statement with little-to-no substance or context" and accused the government of diverting attention away from more serious issues.
"The financial sustainably of councils is going to the wall, the forced amalgamations agenda has been a dismal failure that has seen communities suffer," he said.
Brisbane suburb of Kangaroo Point a case study in high density development
Kangaroo Point is an inner-city suburb undergoing rapid transformation but residents want more infrastructure and consultation on its futureKangaroo Point is one such suburb, where residents fighting to slow the speedy rise of towering apartment blocks feel left out of the planning process as they watch their homes change for good.
Local Government NSW president Linda Scott said the council peak body strongly supported high standards of transparency and accountability.
"The state government has left a number of bullying complaints and other serious allegations raised by elected local government leaders unresolved for longer than two years," she said, adding the organisation had previously urged the state to bolster the resources of the OLG.
Mrs Hancock's warning follows the suspension of Central Coast Council in October after an $89 million debt made it unable to pay its 2000 staff, and the earlier suspension of Armidale Regional Council over infighting that led to court proceedings.
Wingecarribee Shire Council, in the Southern Highlands, was also issued with an improvement order by Mrs Hancock in September over a drawn-out period of dysfunctional behaviour.
In December, two councillors at Georges River Council were revealed to have been under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, while Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne is fighting his possible suspension before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal over allegations he failed to declare a non-pecuniary conflict of interest. He has denied any wrongdoing and says there was no conflict.
‘Shock and awe’ for Hong Kong as China targets elections .
Proposed changes look likely to leave the territory’s residents will even less say over how they’re governed.But also on the agenda this year is the political future of Hong Kong.