To get some sort of handle on what sort of government we, the people of Victoria, have elected, get a load of this story in this morning’s edition of The Age: “‘Indirect interest’ rule slap in face of democracy: Burnside”.
There have long been rules prohibiting elected officers in parliaments and local councils from voting on an issue in which they have a “direct” or “indirect” interest. But the “LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (COUNCILLOR CONDUCT AND OTHER MATTERS) BILL 2008”, which was passed in the lower house on October 9th and is now up for review in the Legislative Council, has redefined “indirect interest” to include the following situation:
“A person has an indirect interest in a matter if the person has become an interested party in the matter by–
(a) initiating civil proceedings in relation to the matter or becoming a party to civil proceedings in relation to the matter; or
(b) exercising a right under the common law, an Act or regulation to–
(i) lodge an appeal in relation to the matter; or
(ii) make an objection or submission in relation to the matter.”.
Apparently, part A is supposed to relate to civil proceedings at VCAT level (to stop individuals getting elected to local councils to get results which they have failed to achieve in civil litigation) – which may or may not be an infringement of democratic rights – but the second part, part B, relates to just about any issue at all.
Under this proposed law, if you have felt strongly enough about an issue to make a submission on it (as you are entiteld to do as a free citizen under law), and if you then feel so strongly about it that in order to get something done about it you get yourself elected as a councillor, LO AND BEHOLD, you’re not allowed to vote on the issue because you have an “indirect interest”.
This is Democracy cutting its own throat.