Expert chips in on council saga
THE removal of Councillor Greg Barnes had a crucial impact on proceedings at Monday's council meeting and many are questioning the grounds of which he was forced to leave.
University of Queensland governance and public policy researcher Frank Mols said, in his understanding of the matter, Cr Barnes had gone to the appropriate lengths to prove a level of transparency by entering the events on the register.
Dr Mols said the Cr Barnes had obviously been mindful of the meetings and property he had received from Bargara Jewel developer Sheng Wei, however he could have taken further steps to prove he didn't have a conflict of interest.
Without tabling the advices Cr Barnes had apparently sought from the Queensland Integrity Commissioner and his own private legal advice, Dr Mols said having even a perceived conflict of interest could present issues.
When dealing with international hospitality, however, Dr Mols said it could be difficult to distinguish gift-giving and dinner invitations, "particularly when dealing with Asian partners".
"We all know in the business world, and in different countries, gift giving is part of the culture," he said.
"You are often showered with gifts, and they're not necessarily worth a lot, but they're all part of culture.
"That can be really, really tricky on a trip when being received. Declining a gift could be seen as a bit of a show-stopper and you might be seen as being difficult."
The expert said is seemed as thoughd Cr Barnes could have done more in relation to the perceived conflict of interest, but it had to be acknowledged he was dealing with another culture's values.
A spokeswoman for Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the handling of the matter was one for the council.
"A conflict of interest is a conflict between a councillor's personal interests and the public interest," she said.
"Whether a conflict is a real conflict or a perceived one will be determined on the individual facts of each case.
"All conflict of interest decisions are matters for the council, as are any appeals.
"A councillor must represent the current and future interests of the residents of the local government area."