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Time for some fairness from Canberra

Friday, 9 February 2018

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 9 February 2018.

The events of this week demonstrate what happens when our federal parliamentarians become too absorbed in their own day-to-day political ambitions or too hamstrung by their equally out-of-touch party strategists. They also show how the hard scrabble of political and policy advocacy can deliver positive results even if the ultimate goal remains elusive. 

When it comes to delivering on what local communities in Queensland truly need (as opposed to what they are told they need), neither of the major parties had much on the positive side of the ledger at the end of the week.

Whether it was meeting the ongoing challenge of indigenous housing or settling on a strategy for Australia’s crucial Murray Darling river basin that is both economically and environmentally sound, the words and actions of most of our federal elected representatives were disappointing.

Not all, mind you. The efforts some federal MPs made to raise the Turnbull Government’s decision to walk away from properly funding remote indigenous housing are to be congratulated. Thanks to Cathy O’Toole, Linda Burney, Milton Dick, Pat Dodson and the indefatigable Bob Katter, who all raised the issue on the floor of parliament.  

As I outlined last week, the Government has decided not to continue the highly successful National Partnership Alliance on Remote Indigenous Housing despite the program have delivered thousands of new and refurbished homes and created hundreds of jobs.

Another decision with the potential to wreak economic havoc on communities in the State’s southwest was Federal Labor’s decision to back moves by the Greens in the Senate to deny irrigators even more water from the Murray Darling system. This is despite an extensive consultation process by the Murray Darling Basin Authority that looked carefully at the social, economic and environmental impacts of a fairer water allocation.

As LGAQ President Mark Jamieson told me this week: “Canberra really needs to get in touch with what is happening in local communities across Australia. They’ve got to make tough decisions, sure, but they do need to keep front of mind that those decisions affect real lives, real people. You make a poor decision that debilitates communities and you haven’t solved a problem. You’ve just pushed it to future generations.”

It’s that outlook that drives the approach we take to pushing Queensland local government’s barrow in the national capital.

Our advocacy team accompanied a group of indigenous mayors to Canberra this week to press the case for a continuation of the indigenous housing program, rattling the cage so much that they managed to inspire not one but two separate Questions Without Notice to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Parliament.

There was also substantial media coverage of the issue, across the state and nationally. In short, there weren’t many people that mattered in Canberra this week who didn’t know there were some local government leaders in town and they had an important story to tell.

Take this as a snapshot of how the LGAQ intends to pursue policy outcomes for our members, particularly on the federal stage where our advocacy reputation is not as established as it is at 1 William St, Brisbane.

As we head into a federal election, all our members will get the chance to contribute to the work of deciding what policy outcomes the local government sector in Queensland expects the next Australian government to deliver.

The campaign strategies on show in Canberra this week are just the start.

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday, 2 February 2018.

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006


 

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