A councillor has a material personal interest in a matter if a decision or action taken by the local government or any of its committees on that matter may result in a direct or indirect benefit or loss to any of the following:
- the councillor
- a close relative (spouse, parent, child or sibling) of the councillor
- a person who is in a partnership with the councillor
- an employer of the councillor
- a body or organisation of which the councillor is a member
- another person prescribed under regulation.
(Local Government Act 2009, section 175B(1); City of Brisbane Act 2010, section 177B(1)):
Councillors must inform meetings of a material personal interest
If you have a material personal interest you must tell the meeting about your interest and leave the meeting while the matter is discussed and a decision is made.
When informing of your material personal interest in a matter you must clearly identify:
- the name of the person or entity who stands to gain a benefit, or suffer a loss, depending on the outcome of the consideration of the matter
- how the person or entity stands to gain the benefit or suffer the loss
- if the person or other entity who stands to gain the benefit or suffer the loss is not you—the nature of your relationship to the person or entity.
The legislation does provide some exceptions. A councillor does not have a material personal interest if the:
- local government is considering an 'ordinary business matter' (such as setting rates and charges or adopting the council budget)
- councillor's interest is no greater than that of other persons in the local government area.
Failure to inform of a material personal interest or leave a meeting
If you fail to inform a meeting of a material personal interest or leave the meeting while the matter is discussed you may be guilty of an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 200 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If convicted of this offence, a councillor is automatically disqualified from being a councillor for four years.
When a majority of councillors have a personal interest
It is possible that a majority of councillors inform the meeting they have a person interest in a particular matter.
When this situation arises, councillors must delegate the decision-making process unless an Act requires that the decision must be made by resolution of the local government
In instances where the matter must be decided by resolution, approval must be sought from the Minister for Local Government before councillors affected by the material personal interest can take part in any associated discussions and decision-making processes.
Attempts to influence others
If you have a material personal interest in a matter you must not influence, or attempt to influence any other councillor, local government employee or local government contractor that is authorised to decide or deal with the matter.
The maximum penalty for such an offence is 200 penalty units or two years imprisonment. If convicted of this offence, a councillor is automatically disqualified from being a councillor for four years.
Other councillors with a conflict of interest
If you believe another councillor has a material personal interest in a matter being considered at a meeting of the local government, you also have an obligation to report your concerns to the chairperson if that councillor has failed to declare their interest.
It is also an integrity offence for a councillor take any retaliatory action against another councillor for complying with their obligation to report another councillor’s material personal interest at a meeting. The maximum penalty for such an offence is 167 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment. A conviction under this offence will also result in automatic disqualification from being a councillor for four years.