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Bonfire of the civilities

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 23 June 2017.

In the depths of a Canberra winter, civility broke out between the major political parties at this year’s Australian Local Government Association National General Assembly - warmth where you didn't expect it.

It was an absolute delight to have Regional Development and Local Government Minister and Deputy National Party leader, Senator Fiona Nash, and Labor’s Anthony Albanese as key note speakers at the customary LGAQ breakfast on the first day of the conference.

They agreed on most things, were genuinely nice to each other and answered every question bowled up to them by LGAQ member councils. Fair to say the Queensland contingent was suitably impressed, even despite Albo’s support for the Blues!

Turnbull Government ministers Michael Keenan, Nigel Scullion and Angus Taylor as well as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten extended similar good grace and bonhomie when they fronted the NGA stage. It sounded and felt different from the normal political point scoring.

One could be cynical and say we just got lucky at this year’s event, but I sense a real change in politics in this country as all the parties head for the centre ground and tone down the pollie speak.The conference was slogan free. I reckon both sides of politics are learning the political lessons from the UK, US and France: voters detest the political system and cynical politicians.

They want honesty, their problems solved, leaders who both understand their hurt and frustrations and have practical and doable solutions to make their lives better. Our nation’s leaders were modelling that very behaviour in Canberra this week. Long may it last.

It was telling that much of this year’s ALGA conference focused on smart communities and the way forward for councils. Queensland councils were front and centre, especially the great presentation by LGAQ President and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson on his council’s new high tech green fields town centre. The LGAQ is also clearly leading the pack with its recently announced LG Sherlock big data, blockchain and data analytics project. It’s the banana benders who are leading on many fronts.

A big highlight at this year’s assembly was the record number of indigenous councils in attendance, mainly our Queensland members. Through the LGAQ’s good efforts, delegations were arranged  for our indigenous members at Parliament House with Ministers Scullion and Wyatt and the Leader of the Opposition _ a whole lot of firsts there.

Finally, some quick advice. The LGAQ is in the process of conducting a by election to replace former Mayor Paul Pisasale on the Association’s Policy Executive  as the representative of the Ipswich, Lockyer, Somerset and Scenic Rim. That process should be completed by the time of the August Policy Executive meeting.

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