Weekly Speak CEO Column
Waste not, want more
Sarah Buckler, acting chief executive
The business of government is never smooth but it should always be pursued with an aspirational eye on the fortunes of future generations. That is especially so if, as is the case in Queensland now, there is a Government with a healthy parliamentary majority and therefore the ability to get things done for the good of the state rather than sectional interests.
This week’s events offer a chance for the Palaszczuk Government to raise and broaden its policy horizons and cement a positive political legacy. There is a real opportunity to be brave and make those aspirational decisions that will benefit Queensland for generations into the future.
The Government pitched its proposed reintroduction of a waste levy this week as a response to the 900,000 tonnes of waste coming into Queensland from New South Wales. But the future of waste management and processing in Queensland will not be fully addressed with the mere imposition of a levy. This should be just the first step in a journey of managing the State’s waste in a manner which is not just environmentally and economically sustainable, but harnesses world leading technology to create a thriving new industry sector. As our President, Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson, said forcefully this week, the LGAQ stands ready to lead the way in this endeavour. Now is the time to embrace game changing solutions like zero waste and waste to energy infrastructure. Let’s hope the Government lifts its policy horizons sufficiently to meet this challenge. Proper reform in this area is not going to be achieved by relying on short term solutions and tactics.
Another area where solid policy thinking rather than political tactics is sorely needed is Queensland’s new vegetation management laws. Farmers, local communities and indeed the State’s economy is heavily reliant on a thriving agriculture industry will be significantly disrupted by these laws. However, there is precious little indication from the Government that it understands what these impacts will be. Farmers are businesses and environmental managers, they make significant investments based on the market conditions, any other industry impacted by policy reforms would expect to be fully consulted and, if appropriate, compensated for the extra costs of doing business. Again, the LGAQ will make sure the Government appreciates the frustration caused by the way in which this legislation has been introduced.
We will also make the position of our members clear in relation to the so-called Belcarra reforms.
The LGAQ has argued all along that councils in Queensland wholeheartedly support measures to improve transparency and accountability in the sector. However, the Government’s tactic of dealing with the Belcarra reforms by introducing them in stages (with stage one enforcing a ban on political donations by developers) means councils are not able to back the Government as enthusiastically as they otherwise might.
The LGAQ will continue to back considered policy reform and will argue vigorously on behalf of its members for a fair go for local communities and for outcomes that make sense on the group. That is most apparent in our campaign to ensure continued federal and state support for remote indigenous housing. We are not just dealing with bricks and mortar here; these investments keep local economies circulating and it is simply short-term policy thinking to assume stopping this funding will not cost governments significantly in other ways for a long time.
These communities need visionary wholistic thinking.
With Cyclone Nora threatening some of our more vulnerable indigenous communities in the State’s north, it is never more evident that Emergency Management needs to remain vigilant in looking to fund betterment as part of its practical outreach. Beyond this, LGAQ-inspired programs like QCoast 2100 have been created out of a preparedness to think outside the square in relation to how community infrastructure can be made more resilient to the impacts of climate change and we will be seeking to continue its funding so that communities like those in Nora’s path are not left behind. Be assured the LGAQ will also seek to continue to push beyond the short-term band-aid and look for long term, forward and wholistic thinking whether it be in the bush or boardroom, the Cape to the capital.
Please stay safe.
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