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Cracking year ahead

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by Sarah Buckler, acting CEO on Friday, 20 January 2017.

It might not have arrived in time for Christmas but the Palaszczuk Government’s announcement this week of how much councils will be able to invest in the State’s new $200 million jobs creation program - Works For Queensland - is the result of a lot of local government policy elves working on the best ways in which to meet the unemployment challenges that regional economies are facing.

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Not a bad start to 2017 for those 65 councils eligible to access the program and a big signal that this year is likely to see regional economic development brought front and centre to the policy debate.

It’s almost stating the bleeding obvious to say that 2017 will be a highly political year and a volatile one at that. Internationally, the dominant influence will be Donald Trump’s presidency of the most powerful country in the world. How he behaves and how the rest of the globe responds will be keys to the direction of the world economy.
But events closer to home will be no less fascinating to witness. Queensland is in an election year and already we have seen the Government, the Opposition and a resurgent One Nation party in full campaign mode. The speculation is centring on an early state election being called for November but only one thing is certain: the Premier will go to the polls at a time she believes will give the most advantage to her Government.

As Greg Hallam suggested in Council Courier last year following the US election result, a political landscape like this provides potentially fertile ground for lobbying organisations, the LGAQ among them, to achieve their objective of getting a good deal for their members. This will be our focus in the coming weeks, as we build our State Election Plan and talk to councillors at our Elected Member Update (EMU) about what is important to them.

We are also remaining vigilant in our pursuit of incremental change and the stuff that doesn’t always get the limelight. In just the first three weeks of this year, I have already signed off on eight LGAQ submissions on various reforms and changes affecting councils, from the Productivity Commission’s discussion paper on increasing the nation’s prosperity to the impacts of invasive weeds and legislation on transparency and accountability in local government. While seemingly old chestnuts, our ever-watchful eye on these agendas enables local governments to keep their focus on more community based local issues, knowing that their interests are being advocated for in these processes.

Our President, Mark Jamieson (pictured with Chicago City Council CIO Brenna Berman), will no doubt return from the overseas study tour he has led this month ready to ensure councils get the most out of advances in the digital economy, smart communities and the potential of improved connectivity.

Finding the balance between creating the agenda and responding to that of another is always a challenge but as these first few weeks show, the LGAQ and local councils are doing both, and this is where our strength lies.

It’s sure to be a cracking year ahead.

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