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Councils need to matter to Canberra

When you collect 83 percent of all government revenue, it is important that your priorities are dominated by those matters that are important to all Australians, especially those who are contributing that revenue through tax on their pay packets. 

The delivery of programs that spend the billions of dollars of investment communities actually need is central to the agenda of the LGAQ as we head into the upcoming Federal budget cycle and election.

Two thirds of the external funding that Queensland councils receive comes from the Federal Government, be it Financial Assistance Grants, Roads to Recovery or regional infrastructure funding. It’s therefore important that we at the LGAQ and other state local government associations put in the time and effort into our relationship with Canberra.

The LGAQ’s two directors on the Australian Local Government Association Board (ALGA) are President Mayor Mark Jamieson and Redlands Mayor Karen Williams. Yesterday and today they plotted and planned a course for ALGA’s lobbying of all sides of politics. 

The group also met with the new Federal Minister for Local Government and Regional Development, former Toowoomba councillor and State Minister for Agriculture John McVeigh to make sure that these issues are front and centre of his mind as he shapes the programs under his responsibility.

It’s no surprise that more infrastructure funding for the city, regions and the bush as well as indigenous councils was front and centre in discussions. And why not, when councils across Australia own 25 percent of the nations’ public infrastructure and yet fund it with just 3 percent of the total national taxation pie? Big, big task. Expect to see ALGA roll out its campaign in coming months.

Another, very bitter, reminder of the importance the national capital plays in council affairs was the move by the Greens, supported by Labor, to vote down a regulation in the Senate that would have provided some relief to rural communities struggling to cope with the impact of the Murray Darling Basin plan.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority endorsed the view, backed by proper science, that environmental flows in the Northern Basin be reduced slightly. The Greens and Labor saw it differently, again acting in a way which will have impacts a world away from the political constituencies they are trying to court.

Towns like St George and Dirranbandi will be extremely hard hit. And for what? A seat or two in the South Australian state election? A byelection in inner-Melbourne? The political benefits of this move to Labor will be fleeting but Queensland border river communities will pay the price for a long time.

With the Queensland Parliament sitting for the first time this week since last year’s election, it was back down to business for the Palaszczuk Government. One of its first moves was to accede to the LGAQ’s long-held view that mayors and councillors should be able to consult the state’s Integrity Commissioner over integrity and ethical issues.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe last Friday told a meeting of the Policy Executive of the Local Government Association of Queensland that he had written to Queensland Integrity Commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov requesting that mayors and councillors be included as designated persons under the Integrity Act 2009.

As President Mark Jamieson said, this move was a long time coming.  We appreciate the Government’s decision. 

We also thank our long-serving ethics advisor, former deputy premier Joan Sheldon, for her excellent work in filling this gap through her LGAQ funded role. 

Pictured: Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe with the LGAQ Policy Executive.

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