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Storm warning for Canberra

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 21 July 2017.

The battle to ensure our national Government understands the challenges Queensland’s local communities face and recognises its role in overcoming them never ends. Early in the week I met with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, Minister Bill Byrne and the Mayors of Whitsunday, Mackay and Rockhampton to discuss the Federal Government’s woefully inadequate $29.3 million Category D offer under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements to those communities to help overcome the economic impacts from Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

The councils were seeking $110 million from Canberra and had made detailed submissions supporting that bid. It was very poor form by Federal Minister responsible for disaster funding, Michael Keenan, to add salt to the wound by rubbishing those applications in the media.

The LGAQ will support those three councils achieve a much fairer deal, starting with a call for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to visit those regions - as he did in the days following the storm - and see for himself the local efforts to recover from Debbie. That would be a much better way of treating these communities than putting blind faith in the notion that Canberra bureaucrats know best when it comes to dealing with cyclones. 

Queensland’s Local Government Minister Mark Furner unveiled the Government’s response to the Solomon Review of the current councillor complaints system during the Budget estimates process. On face value, it’s a reasonable approach to what is sorely needed reform of the system. However, as you would expect, the LGAQ has reserved its final position until we see the detailed legislation. See our news release.

Later in the week we hosted a meeting of mayors representing Great Barrier Reef communities at Local Government House. Local government leaders from Cooktown to Bundaberg spoke with state and federal agencies to work toward a consistent and coherent council negotiating position on matters to do with the reef. There will be a follow up meeting in Gladstone straight after annual conference.

Finally, LGAQ President Mayor Mark Jamieson and I ventured out in the South Burnett region to visit Cherbourg and South Burnett councils and Somerset on the way through. The President has already visited more than half of Queensland’s 77 councils in his first 10 months in the job, an amazing effort. Good on you, boss.

For us, the highlight of the South Burnett trip was hearing of a very special thing that happened between the Cherbourg and South Burnett Councils during NAIDOC week. The Cherbourg mob invited South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell and his CEO to participate in their celebrations. Not only did they stay all day but they also danced in the corroboree - a great honour.


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