This is what is called an "I told you so" moment. The 2010 campaign by builders and developers in Wagga Wagga, unwilling to comply with normal planning rules, has now been shown to be a beat-up and a farce.

Yesterday, Minister for Planning Brad Hazzard announced that despite the calls by the self-seekers, the boofheads, the flouters of planning laws and the scurrilous yellow press Dirty Advertiser and it's partial, sub-professional and conflicted "journalists", he would not appoint a planning administrator to Wagga Wagga City Council.

This was clearly a beat-up all along. We said as much in depaNews when we said we were confident that the complaints, like that of Peter Hurst, would be dismissed when investigated. Now they have been. And while the Sydney Morning Herald printed that quote in full, the Dirty Advertiser, as part of its partial and complicitous role in backing these miscreants, chose to remove any reference to Mr Hurst. Shame on them, obviously one Press Council finding against them wasn't enough.

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It's hard to imagine that there are still councillors out there who don't understand that it is unacceptable to criticise the performance of employees at council meetings. Maybe it's because it was at Blayney, and it gets pretty damn cold at Blayney, that the Deputy Mayor Councillor Kevin Radburn thought it was okay to do precisely this.

And not only that, despite being called into line twice by Mayor Bruce Kingham, he kept doing it. This was unacceptable behaviour by the Deputy Mayor and clearly a breach of significant sections of the Code of Conduct but Director of Environment Services Paul O'Brien by that stage had had enough and left the meeting.

The announcement in the Federal Budget that the sliding scale of FBT payments based on the kilometres travelled by the car is to be scrapped and replaced with a standard 20% tax is currently being digested by the industry.

It never made any sense to have a tax which reduced if you travel more kilometres. This additional travel increased other costs and its encouragement to emit more carbon.

Already some councils are threatening employees that they will try to recoup the increases in FBT from them as part of leaseback fees but these councils are missing the point that providing employees with private use of cars clearly benefits the Council as well as the employees concerned and that this is not an appropriate course of action. Imagine a council trying to recruit you lot without offering a car.

We are in dispute again with Greater Taree City Council.

As a result of a restructure some time ago, the Council has de-skilled and removed authority from a member who was formerly a Manager and is now a team leader. He accepted the position of team leader on assurances by the Council would be virtually indistinguishable and that this would be revealed when the position description was developed. The Council has refused, despite monthly requests, to prepare the position description.

We were able to identify 18 separate responsibilities lost in the change (and that's counting the loss of all delegations only as one factor) in addition to the council's failure to honour their undertaking to prepare a position description but the council would still not agree to make the aggrieved employee redundant.

So, we filed a dispute and, for good measure, added to it two other issues that we were struggling to settle. One was an issue about an employee's right to a free commuter car arising from a letter of appointment which said she had that as an entitlement and the other was a failure of the Council to comply with the rules of their salary system when the salary system allowed two step increases but management simply decided that they didn't want to do that anymore.

The dispute was heard by Commissioner Stanton in the Industrial Relations Commission on 4 May and the Council denied everything. It was like living in Monty Python's famous Argument Sketch...

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There are now eight or nine councils on the point of signing up for the trial of the Industry Guidelines – and four from the Hunter. This progress was noted when depa’s two disputes were listed for further conciliation in the Commission on 28 April.

Upper Hunter remains wedded to their obsession with urine and its tendency to fail to pick up impairment when an employee is impaired - preferring the prurient window it opens into employees’ private lives and the detection of things that have nothing to do with impairment at work.

The Commission made it clear to the Council that they need to reach agreement with the three unions about the continuation of this policy and this method of testing and not just rely on some purported local agreement. The Council seems reluctant to meet with the unions now. Brow-beating your staff in a little council where people are not experts and don’t know their rights is one thing, but trying to brow-beat the unions is another.

We make the fearless prediction that urine testing will be gone by the end of the year or, at the very latest, after the industry trial is concluded early next year.

In a real snub to union members at Hurstville Council, Pizza Man, General Manager Victor Lampe has told his HR Manager he “wouldn’t bother” responding any further to our investigation of why he shouted pizzas for the freeloaders on Union Picnic Day. In the March issue of depaNews we reported that employees at Hurstville who had chosen not to be union members, and were not entitled to Union Picnic Day under the Local Government (State) Award, were all provided with a free lunch by the General Manager.

We were interested to find out why and in the March issue said we would pursue this and publish the Council's response.

Well, it's been hard to squeeze anything out of Victor. He is far more interested in feeding people who refuse to join unions than he is of responding to us.

First, he had his HR Manager respond to our e-mail and she said "lunch was a small gesture of appreciation in the circumstances". She rejected our suggested explanations but the circumstances are intriguing.

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The LGSA has had some success in using the recommendation of Deputy President Grayson in one of depa’s drug and alcohol disputes (IRC 155/11) for the Upper Hunter councils to consider participating in the forthcoming trial of the Industry Guidelines on alcohol and other drugs. We expect to be able to make a formal announcement of which councils will participate in the trial and the anticipated timeframe soon.

But so far, no progress with the urine sniffers at Upper Hunter - who remain resolutely of the view that they want to urine test everyone, including applicants for jobs, to see what they've been doing over the two or three weeks prior to the test.

Sue Cox
Proposed drug and alcohol policy
Gunnedah Shire Council are also prosing urine testing of all staff under their proposed policy. I also believe this is intrusive.
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Local Government Super has been named the Infinity Award winner for 2011 by independent super research company SuperRatings, reinforcing its position as the leader in sustainable behaviour in the superannuation industry.

The Award was presented at the Conference of Major Super Funds last week.

The Infinity Award recognises the super fund that is leading the industry in the pursuit of genuine responsible investment principles and open communication of these processes to its members. SuperRatings assesses Infinity Award candidates based on three fixed criteria - investment, engagement and behaviour.

Bill Hartnett is the Sustainability Manager at LGS. He said he was pleased the Fund’s internal culture and sustainable and responsible investment practices are being recognised.

"LGSS has a strong and long-standing commitment to sustainability, which is guided by the vision of our Board of Trustees and the management team. Winning the Infinity Award recognises that our approach is industry best practice.”

LGS has approximately $3.1 billion invested in responsible investment strategies.

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