WHAT IS GOOD CONDUCT?
Good conduct in local government means that councillors should act with integrity and impartiality. They should be honest and diligent, avoid conflicts of interest, treat people with respect, act lawfully and show leadership.
Good conduct or behaviour is an important part of a civil society. It is also the basis for good relationships which are, in turn, crucial for good governance.
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD CONDUCT
The principles for good conduct are set out in the section 76 B and section 76 BA of the Local Government Act 1989. The Act also defines several other requirements for the conduct of councillors and council officers.
Some forms of conduct are considered to be criminal and can result in prosecution.
IMPORTANCE OF GOOD CONDUCT
Good conduct and good relationships are particularly significant in local government because it relies on councillors working together as the government to make decisions in the name of the council (regardless of whether individuals agree with a decision or not).
Good relationships are characterised by mutual respect and courtesy which is especially important when there are differences of opinion. Equally important is the need for councillors to listen to each other, and focus debate and discussion on the issues rather than on personalities.
Good reasons for good conduct
There are three main reasons why councillors should follow the principles of good conduct:
- Councillors’ behaviour reflects on the council and on local government as a whole. If councils are seen to be acting fairly and ethically their decisions will be better respected and are much more likely to be accepted by the community.
- The conduct of individual councillors affects the ability of the council to function properly. If councillors behave badly, it can negatively affect the quality of their relationships with each other. This can lead to a lack of trust which will undermine the effectiveness of the council as a whole.
- As community leaders, councillors should recognise their position as role models. Just like leaders at the state and federal levels of government and other prominent citizens, councillors’ conduct sets the standard for other people to follow.
GOOD CONDUCT, GOODWILL AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
An important foundation of good governance in local government is goodwill.
While there are various mechanisms to guide and manage councillor behaviour (such as codes of conduct, conduct panels and the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal), good governance depends on the capacity and preparedness of councillors to behave well and do whatever is necessary to build and maintain good working relationships, the administration supporting this, and councillors committing to repairing working relationships when things come unstuck as they may do from time to time.