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Making time for smart lobbying

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday 24, March 2017.

At the very time when polls are showing Australians are sick of the business of politics as usual, there have never been more opportunities to plug into the daily goings-on in Canberra or State Parliament.

Websites dedicated to political news are sprouting up all over the country, the pundits and the pollies have taken to podcasting to push their barrows and there are now two digital TV news channels - Sky and ABC 24 - offering coverage of, and commentary on, just about every move a minister makes.

All this has encouraged the lobbying efforts of many peak bodies to be in the thrall of the 10 second TV grab or 'killer' tweet. But while these new ways of getting your voice heard are increasingly effective and cannot be ignored, there is still nothing like the power of a face-to-face meeting to draw the attention of policy makers to a particular view. 

That is why Queensland local government needs to make certain it is not only heard but seen in the corridors of power in Canberra. LGAQ President Mark Jamieson has been busy this week doing just that, meeting as many ministers, opposition MPs and crossbenchers as he can. He had honest and fruitful discussions with Deputy Nationals leader and Local Government and Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash, Justice Minister Michael Keenan, Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan, Opposition Justice spokesman Mark Dreyfus, LNP Senators Ian Macdonald and James McGrath, Labor Senators Anthony Chisholm and Chris Ketter and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.

Each of them received a full briefing on local government concerns regarding the Turnbull Government’s approach to the future of natural disaster recovery funding, particularly the vexed issue of councils being able to use their own plant and equipment for recovery works. The Government continue to refuse to pay 38 councils about $8 million their communities are owed for work performed during natural disasters ways back in 2013-14.

The Mayor backed up that effort the next day by donning his Council of Mayors SEQ hat and meeting more Cabinet ministers in an intense day of pre-budget lobbying in one of the committee rooms deep inside Parliament House.  

The reason for all this effort is simple: the Commonwealth raises 85 percent of the nation’s total public revenue. It is an increasingly important funding source for local councils, which is why the LGAQ upped its investment in growing a Canberra lobby three years ago. And we are getting noticed, as demonstrated by the fact that just hours after meeting Mayor Jamieson, Senator Chisholm pointed to local government’s woes over natural disaster funding during parliamentary debate.

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