Ripper end to a challenging year
It has been an epic finish to the year for local government and a pretty good one at that.
Ten or 20 years ago, the world slowed down by the time of the first cricket test match at the Gabba in late November, even earlier in some years at around Melbourne Cup time. This year made a mockery of that pattern. It was full bore to the end.
This week, after six months of detailed policy development work by your Association with the Premier and Deputy Premier, came the announcement of a $200 million special capital works program for regional councils outside south-east Queensland.
While we will keep up the pressure on George St not to forget our SEQ member councils, it would be churlish not to congratulate the Palaszczuk Government on a very much needed job boosting initiative. Combine the measures contained in the 2016 state budget and this week’s Mid-Year Financial and Economic Review (MYFER) statement, and our member councils have scored an extra $400 million in State funding this financial year. That's a historic, bloody ripper of an outcome.
A very special thanks to Deputy Premier and Local Government and Infrastructure Minister Jackie Trad. Her fingerprints are all over those packages.
Another positive development was the Crime and Corruption Commission’s support for our call for restrictions on the publication of complaints to the CCC during a council election process. I have done a lot of radio, TV and newspaper commentary the past few days supporting the recommendation. It’s not a done deal yet as it will require legislative enablement, and therefore Government support. But it's a darn good start.
Just to make sure our feet didn’t hit the ground this week, Wednesday saw yours truly, as a standing member of the Queensland Disaster Management Committee, taking part in a response exercise, led by the Premier, to a full blown disaster scenario.
We also saw the first gathering of councils focused on the all-important horticultural industry, just one of the 48 separate meetings that have attracted more than 280 visitors to Local Government House so far this month. See what I mean about the end of the traditional wind down to Christmas?
Somewhere in there, too, was the last LGAQ Policy Executive meeting for the year, the first chaired by President Mark Jamieson.
This has been a significant year for us with council elections, a new Policy Executive and President, the retirement of two LGAQ stalwarts in Greg Hoffman and David Swan, and a lot of great financial wins for councils (not to forget the job of clawing back what we have lost in previous years is by no means accomplished). We also managed to hand back insurance premiums to members amounting to one million dollars more in 2016 than we took in membership subscriptions.
In signing off this column for the year I thank the outgoing and brand new Policy Executive for their great work. Thanks to the LGAQ staff who do extraordinary things for you, our members, and have collectively travelled a tick over 1.4 million kms and spent 355 nights away from home meeting you face-to-face as much as they can.
But the biggest thanks is to you, our salt of the earth member councils. Keep up all the great work you do for your communities.
Let me leave you with some summer homework: over the next week mayors and CEOs will receive a personally addressed email inviting each of you to complete a questionnaire on your council’s journey towards long-term financial sustainability.
I urge you to complete the online survey by 1 February 2017 to make sure the LGAQ is able to provide the right advocacy and support for all councils in this crucial area. We will treat all responses in confidence. A summary report will be presented at the Finance Summit in March next year.