Legal advice leads to leap of faith

Fast Buck$, Coorabell.

Last year Byron Shire Council was trying to establish a set of criteria by which a holiday letter could be prosecuted but needed approval from the Department of Planning to bring them into effect.

The department used a trick I hadn’t seen before. They produced a purported ‘legal advice’ from parliament’s lawyers stating that inclusion of proposed criteria A and B would be ‘legal’. However, they had nothing to say about criteria C, D and E, so I, like any normal reader, concluded that the latter must be illegal in some way. Later I realised that the reader had been set up precisely to make this leap of faith; if the inclusion of C, D and E would have made the proposed rules illegal, then why didn’t the legal advice say so and explain why?

More importantly why didn’t the staff report draw the elected councillors’ attention to this defect? Simon Richardson in later debate was angry that a rule that would supposedly be illegal for Byron was okay for one of the other councils in the state, but he failed to draw the obvious conclusion that the department had bullshitted the council, and that the council staff had aided the deception by remaining silent. Indeed when I asked the GM during public questions what this was all about, Simon interrupted to suggest that the GM’s answer would come later, in writing. I angrily pointed out to him that the matter was up for debate today, not at some future time convenient to the GM.

Fortunately the director of planning then got up and easily answered my question. I don’t know why Simon believes it’s his job to protect the GM from legitimate scrutiny. On this I’m on the same page as Tom Tabart.



One response to “Legal advice leads to leap of faith”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Last year in 2016 Byron Shire Council took steps to establish the criteria that any lessor in holiday units could be prosecuted for a misdemeanour. The first step Council took was to approach the Department of Planning to make sure the criteria was legal and could withstand a court challenge.

    The Department consulted parliament’s lawyers and stated that of the five parts, the proposed criteria of ‘A’ and ‘B’ would be legal but there was no comment on parts ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’. This legal decision presented a problem as logic it told me that ‘C’,’D, and ‘E’ were therefore illegal, so I was there on a step taking steps A and B but there was a gap to steps C, D and E. I stared and stared into space where evidence was missing because to put the puzzle together if C, D and E were added to A and B then all would be legal. That is how it seemed to me so I took a leap of faith in that belief. Why was that leap not explained?

    The Planning staff report gave a conclusion that could have been more conclusive? Byron mayor Simon Richardson in later debate in Council was agitated that a supposedly legal rule in Byron letting could be used in other state councils, but he did not see that the Department had mistakenly missled council, and that council staff also had followed that incorrect path. When GM Ken Gainger was asked during public questions to explain, Mayor Richardson interrupted to suggest that the GM’s answer would come later, in writing. Why could not the GM answer on the spot?

    There was an awkward silence. Finally the director of planning got up and easily answered my question. Why would Mayor Richardson believe that he has to protect the GM from scrutiny? On this point, for a start, I am on the same page as Tom Tabart.

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