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Tuesday, 3 March 1998
Page: 270


Mr Price asked the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, upon notice, on 17 November 1997:

(1) Which NSW councils had by-elections (a) in the lead up to and (b) following the Federal election in March (i) 1993 and (ii) 1996.

(2) How many of the by-elections referred to in part (1) occurred as a result of the requirements of s.44(iv) of the Constitution.

(3) What was the cost to NSW ratepayers of the by-elections.

(4) Is the Government taking steps to make legislative or constitutional amendments to avoid costs arising from these by-elections; if so, what.


Mr Somlyay (Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government) —The amended answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1, 2 and 3) Full legislative responsibility for local government rests with the States. My Department does not hold details relating to the holding of local government by-elections in New South Wales nor the costs of such by-elections.

(4) As far as I am aware the issue of whether a councillor holds an office of profit under the Crown, as contained in S.44(iv) of the Constitution, has not yet been determined. Until the question is decided by the High Court, aldermen and councillors need to consider whether they should resign from their local government office if they seek to be elected to the Federal Parliament.

The question of whether s.44 should be amended to overcome the general difficulties presented by that section was considered recently by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The Government is generally supportive of the Committee's recommendations to update and clarify the provision but would be inclined to put a proposal to a referendum only if it had bipartisan support.

Should an alderman or councillor resign from his or her local government office to seek election to the Federal Parliament, the cost of the subsequent by-election for that local government office does not result from the operation of s.44(iv) of the Constitution but flows from the NSW Local Government Act 1993, which provides when a by-election to fill a casual vacancy will be held.