Under the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW (the Model Code of Conduct), certain Council officials are required to disclose their personal interests in publicly available returns of interests. These operate as a key transparency mechanism for promoting community confidence in Council decision making, whether by Councillors or by staff or others under delegation.
The Model Code of Conduct is consistent with Section 440 of the Local Government Act 1993 (LGA Act) as well as Part 8 of the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005.
Council's own Code of Conduct states the following: -
A Councillor or designated person must make and lodge with the General Manager a return in the form set out in schedule 2, disclosing the Councillor's or designated person's interests as specified in schedule 1 within 3 months after:
A 'designated person' is defined as: -
Information contained in returns made and lodged under clause 4.21 of the Model Code is to be made publicly available in accordance with the requirements of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, the Government Information (Public Access) Regulation 2009 and any guidelines issued by the Information Commissioner.
The Information and Privacy Commission Guideline 1 Returns of Interests prescribes that Councillors' and designated persons' returns of interest must be made publicly available free of charge on Council’s website.
Section 14 of the GIPA Act 2009 lists as a consideration against disclosure the fact that information may reveal someone’s personal information, or would contravene an information privacy principle under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW).
An individual has a right to protect the privacy of their personal information. Given the amount of personal information that may be contained in returns of interest, special care will be taken to protect this right. The type of matter which might be redacted from a return in these circumstances will vary depending on the public interest considerations applied; examples might include the signature or residential address of the Councillor or designated person concerned.
Releasing the information contained in the returns of Councillors and designated persons in this manner facilitate the legitimate public interest in having access to the information, while respecting other considerations against disclosure including privacy.
DE J Rath