From the President
Today's column is not just about my views, it is about yours; and about our opportunity together to shape the future. By now councils will have received information about timetable for constitutional recognition and the need to be involved in 'council conversations' through State and Territory Local Government Associations. ALGA, in conjunction with the associations, has been working on developing a credible, engaging and representative strategy to take forward the issue of constitutional recognition of local government.
Constitutional recognition is the big adventure facing local government as we tread through the early years of the 21st century. We have a roadmap, a timetable and conversations are already taking place. We have an opportunity to get it right and ensure that we lock in local government?s place in the federation through formal recognition in the constitution.
I am convinced that for local government to reach its full potential and to be best placed to handle the myriad of challenges facing local government in the early part of the 21st century, we must have formal constitutional status as a full and equal partner with the states and Commonwealth. Our lack of recognition is not simply an anachronism. It is a gross oversight that for over 160 years local government has served the people of Australia as a democratically elected sphere of government without recognition in its own right.
To paraphrase the great Abraham Lincoln, local government has always been by the people, for the people and of the people. The birth of local government in Australia attests to this. The first local government in Australia was formed on 31 October 1840 with the election of a mayor, three aldermen and fifteen councillors to the new Adelaide Corporation. This followed a petition from the residents (totalling around 2000) for the "rights and privileges" of their own council. A truly representative and 'grass-roots' beginning!
The input from the conversations will inform the development of the business papers for the Local Government Constitutional Summit to be held in Melbourne 8-11 December 2008.
Now it is up to you!
In its simplest form we need to know:
- whether your council supports constitutional recognition of local government
- your views on what your council would like to see achieved from constitutional recognition of local government
- what your council wants like to see in the Australian Constitution
- what you think we need to do to gain sufficient community support to win a referendum, if and when one was put to the Australian people.
To assist us in this plan, we need input from all councils on a number of key issues. You can help by conducting a ?conversation? within your council on this topic. Materials, including facts sheets, to assist you and your council to conduct this conversation are available on the web for download. Feel free to copy and distribute this material.
In providing feedback councils should consider:
- The relative benefits to your community
- The likelihood of gaining Commonwealth support for each objective
- The risks of taking multiple or complex issues to the electorate
- The likelihood of opposition.
Councils are asked to complete an online feedback form
Cr Paul Bell AM
ALGA submission on climate change and coastal communities
ALGA has made a submission to the current House of Representatives Inquiry into climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities. The Inquiry is being conducted by the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, and is examining:
- existing policies and programs related to coastal zone management, taking in the catchment-coast-ocean continuum
- the environmental impacts of coastal population growth and mechanisms to promote sustainable use of coastal resources
- the impact of climate change on coastal areas and strategies to deal with climate change adaptation, particularly in response to projected sea level rise
- mechanisms to promote sustainable coastal communities
- governance and institutional arrangements for the coastal zone.
The ALGA submission noted the important responsibilities of local government in many coastal areas, including:
- land use planning
- significant aspects of environmental management, including the provision of waste removal and treatment services, and the provision of water, drainage and sewerage services
- management of many coastal reserves and other coastal buffer areas
- provision and management of public infrastructure such as roads, recreational areas and parks.
The submission went on to identify key requirements for local government to address the impacts of climate change in coastal areas, including:
- minimisation of potential overlaps and conflicts within and between State/Territory and Australian Government legislation, policies and programs
- accurate timely data on current coastal population growth and demographic change
- sound estimates of future water availability, for both surface and ground water
- timely advice on emerging technologies for environmental services such as waste removal and treatment, and water, drainage and sewerage
- a nationally consistent basis for the estimation of projected sea level rise over time
- nationally endorsed approaches for estimation of the resultant inland extent of inundation
- a nationally consistent, transparent, approach to the insurance of infrastructure in the coastal zone
- legal protection and funding where local government infrastructure cannot be insured.
The ALGA submission is on the Committee website, along with submissions from some state associations and councils. Not all submissions made to the Inquiry are on the website yet; more will be added in the near future.
TAS: Dog bites woman, man bites back
A man says he is fighting a legal battle to defend his family's waterfront home after one of his pet dogs allegedly attacked a woman walking across his yard.
His kelpies, Elsie and Puppet, have been doing a long stretch in a Tasmanian pound while Mr Paul Craige, 42, takes on his local council and police over dangerous dog laws and property rights.
The dogs have chalked up more than 16 months - or 10 "dog years" - so far in George Town Council's animal lock-up since January last year.
Their fate remains in limbo at least until the legal imbroglio returns to Launceston Magistrates Court later this month, after a series of adjournments.
But Mr Craige says he is not optimistic about an outcome soon for Elsie and her daughter Puppet.
The alleged victim, a middle-aged woman, told police she received medical treatment for bruising and broken skin on her upper arm caused by a dog bite on January 8, 2007.
Mr Craige faces two charges relating to the attack. He is also suing the council that presides over George Town, a developing Tamar River tourist town which now crowds around the family's central, 100-year-old residential property.
Mr Craige, a single-parent pensioner with two teenaged children, has pleaded not guilty to being the owner of a dog that attacked a person on public property.
He says the site of the attack - the "path" - is his family's private property and the public have not established a right of way over it. He denies any direct knowledge of the attack.
Mr Craige has also pleaded not guilty to creating a public nuisance after trying to fence off the path.
These charges will be heard in the Launceston Magistrates Court again on June 26.
The case is expected to be referred to the Supreme Court.
The George Town Council is being sued by Mr Craige for the immediate return of one of his dogs and for $10,000 to cover his legal costs.
He says the council was entitled to take only one of the dogs because only one dog was blamed for the attack.
On top of Mr Craige's legal bill, the dogs have racked up a pound bill worth more than $10,000 at $11-a-day for each dog's keep. (AAP)
National Rural Women's Summit
The Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, will hold a National Rural Women's Summit at the end of June. This summit will look at opportunities for improving social and economic outcomes for rural women and increasing their participation in a range of policy areas, including agriculture and regional development. During estimates last week, Minister Conroy said that after the summit, Minister Albanese would be reviewing the Rural Women's Advisory Council and strengthen the role the body plays in terms of policy advice and development. More information will be available here as details are confirmed.
Capital City Mayors take up CitySwitch Green Office
Council of Capital City Lord Mayors' Chairman, Michael Harbison, Lord Mayor of Adelaide, announced today that the world leading sustainability program CitySwitch Green Office is being taken up by the cities of Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth.
"The CCCLM is excited that this program will be rolled out in three states, following its success in the City of Sydney," Lord Mayor Michael Harbison said. "The project will increase awareness of energy efficiency as well as providing ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." CitySwitch Green Office is an extension of the successful 3CBDs Greenhouse Initiative, launched in 2005 by City of Sydney, North Sydney Council and Parramatta City Council with the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC).
Those interested in joining the program should visit www.cityswitch.net.au for more details.
MAV website to help future councillors
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has launched a website for people considering standing for council at general elections around Victoria.
Visit www.standforcouncil.com.au for information about eligibility to stand for council, the role of a councillor, types of decisions councillors make, the time commitment involved, election processes and campaigning tips.
All councils in Victoria will hold general elections in November 2008.
Forum on housing affordability for an ageing Australia
Last week, ALGA attended the COTA over 50s National Policy Council Forum on Affordable Housing for Older Australians in Canberra.
The Forum was opened by the Minister for Ageing, the Hon Justine Ellott MP, and featured a closing address from the Minister for Housing, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP. Both Ministers outlined the importance to the Federal Government of policies and programs that encourage older Australians to stay at home as long as possible, consistent with the desires of most older Australians.
Many thought-provoking facts and statistics underlining the significance of the housing affordability needs of the ageing population were presented at the Forum. For example, within the next ten years, around 400,000 older Australians will be in the rental market. This raises issues such as what housing is most appropriate to them, and how should older Australians' independence be enabled for as long as possible?
Key note speaker Professor Hal Kendig (University of Sydney) indicated strongly that affordable housing for older Australians is a realistic goal, especially if it is supported by co-operative federalism. The Chair of the NSW Working Group on Housing and Accommodation discussed a leading edge project, the Clarence Valley Affordable Housing Model. The project involves Clarence Valley Council (mid-north coast, NSW) playing a key role in providing affordable housing for older Australians, with 'minimal impact on its operations.' A copy of the slides from this presentation can be found by clicking on the link to the Affordable Housing Forum 29 May 2008 at www.cotaover50s.org.au.
In addition, two luncheon addresses emphasised the value of older Australians in our society. The first of these was given by Ms Iris White, Manager of Aboriginal Education and Training for the Illawara Insttitue of TAFE NSW. The second luncheon address was given by Australia's Inaugural Ambassador for Ageing, Ms Noeline Brown, who focused upon the contribution that older Australians give to others, especially through volunteer community work.
The clear message at the Forum was that housing for all people is fundamental to their wellbeing, and that all other interventions are ineffectual without it.
World conference on ageing to be staged in Melbourne in 2010
The Minister for Ageing, Justine Ellott, has announced that Melbourne has secured the right to host the 10th International Federation on Ageing (IFA) Global Conference on Ageing in 2010 as a result of a successful bid by the Victorian Council on the Ageing.
The international conference is one of the largest international gatherings of world experts in the field of ageing.
It is expected that the conference will attract more than 2,000 delegates and will inject more than $8 million into the economy.
This is the second time Australia will host the Conference, with Western Australia successfully hosting the event in 2002.
Workplace and Risk Summit
Early bird registration for the MAV Workplace and Risk Summit from 6 - 8 August at Telstra Dome is now open. The program features presentations, workshops and panel discussions on current issues facing councils including employment branding, cultural change, contract management, managing organisation-wide excellence in risk management and fraud. The full conference program will be distributed in the coming weeks. Cost to attend the three-day summit is $700, a saving of $50 if registering and paying by 30 June. For a copy of the registration form or other registration options, go to www.mav.asn.au/workplace. Contact Ann Tok, 9667 5557, firstname.lastname@example.org
Benchmarking Best Practice in Local Govt conference
CEOs from a number of councils, including the Chair of the Local Government Business Excellence Network, Peter Gesling, will share their insights into how councils can implement advanced and innovative management strategies to create best practice outcomes.
The 2008 Benchmarking Best Practice in Local Government Conference, to be held in Sydney on 28-29 July, will hear presentations from senior local government managers and leading advisory firms. They will present case studies and provide detailed advice on how councils can drive organisational improvements, achieve productivity gains, reduce costs, and deliver high levels of service to their local community.
Speakers such as the City of Marion's CEO Mark Searle; Logan City Council's CEO Chris Rose and Ararat Rural City Council CEO, Steve Chapple, will outline the dynamics of improved staff culture and increased performance levels within their respective organisations.
Innovation is at the core of enhanced local government performance and this conference will bring together some of the most outstanding practitioners of continuous improvement within local government across Australia. It will provide delegates with the detailed and specific tools to implement lasting improvements in their own council operations across a range of functions.
The best practice case studies will cover areas such as: improving council workforce culture; staff productivity and retention; financial management; risk management; environmental sustainability; and information technology.
For further information about the conference, visit www.halledit.com.au/conferences phone (03) 8534 5000 or email email@example.com
National Local Roads and Transport Congress - last chance
There is still time to register for the 2008 National Local Roads and Transport Congress being held in Shepparton Victoria for 15 - 17 June.
This is the premier national local government transport event for the year. It brings together key political and industry stakeholders. This year there is a strong freight transport theme as well as the implications for local government of the new Labor Government in Canberra.
There are more than 25 speakers that will examine and discuss a wide range of transport and transported related issues relevant to local government. As always, there will be the opportunity to question the key people who make decisions that impact on local government.
The theme of the Congress "Securing the First Mile" reflects the role of local government plays in the national freight task. We want to emphasise at the Congress that the first or last mile of a freight journey must not be taken for granted. It is important that we show the Federal Government and the road transport industry that they need to pay attention to the local road system or it has the potential to be the weak link in the overall transport system.
We need your support by attending the Congress.
More details and registration information is available at www.alga.asn.au/roadscongress.
Supporting women leaders in the Pacific
Australia will work with Pacific Governments and the UN to strengthen women's leadership in the region. Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, said women were significantly under-represented in decision-making positions in the Pacific. "An average 2.5 per cent of members of parliaments in the Pacific region are women, compared with a world average of 17.7 per cent," said Mr McMullan.
We will train women at a local level in governance and leadership issues, undertake research on the barriers and successful pathways to women's leadership and develop communication and training materials for use in the region," said Mr McMullan.
Mr McMullan said improved gender equality reduces poverty and directly stimulated growth by helping more women become productive paid workers. It also has beneficial effects on child well-being
Push to include rate pegging in review
Local Government has welcomed an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) review of council revenue, but says the State Government has a responsibility to include rate pegging in the terms of reference.
NSW Local Government Minister Paul Lynch said the Government remained committed to the system of rate-pegging, which was introduced 31 years ago.
However, the review would look at whether the tribunal should play a role in the process.
The review would consider the financial impact of rates and charges on families and pensioners, the role of councils in delivering services, their financial position, revenue sources and differences between councils.
The Local Government Association called for rate pegging to be included in the terms of reference.
"NSW is the only state in Australia that has rate pegging, and it is well known it is preventing councils from providing the services and facilities our communities need," president, Cr Genia McCaffery, said.
"We welcome the State Government's acknowledgement that councils are under funded and being squeezed at both ends," President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery said.
"Rate pegging, cost shifting, the State's planning laws and increased pressure on existing services are just some of the challenges councils are facing trying to maintain communities that are fit to live in."
The Associations' will forward a submission on behalf of the sector which will include the call for the removal or relaxation of rate pegging, a reduction in the practice of cost shifting and increased funding.
Binge Bars - Melbourne
Another 30 Melbourne bars and clubs have joined a fight against the Victorian government's 2am lockout.
Last month Premier John Brumby announced a trial three-month nightclub lockout to curb late night violence in the inner city.
But on Friday, a tribunal gave a temporary exemption to 47 venues as long as they met strict conditions. Over 80 applications have flooded in.
World Environment Day 2008: The local has become global
On World Environment Day yesterday, ICLEI Oceania joined more than 280 councils across Australia and New Zealand in celebrating the achievements and ongoing work of local government in the fight against climate change.
With an international network of over 800 councils, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability has demonstrated that local government has a significant role to play in meeting the challenges presented by climate change.
Over the past 11 years ICLEI?s regional office, ICLEI Oceania, has been working with local government in Australia and New Zealand to protect the environment for current and future generations. As a not-for-profit organisation, ICLEI Oceania has achieved this by helping councils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water management and apply sustainability principles to the planning and delivery of community services.
Local governments have already taken bold steps to protect the environment and influence their communities to 'kick' many unsustainable habits through local action. Over 13 million tonnes of carbon emissions have been abated since the start of ICLEI?s Cities for Climate Protection? program in Australia, while 118 Australian councils are working to improve sustainable water management and inspire behavioural change in their communities through ICLEI's Water CampaignTM.
For more information about ICLEI Oceania see www.iclei.org/oceania
NSW Budget - infrastructure boost, but libraries left out in cold
Water saving initiatives, national parks and the fight against climate change have all received a funding boost with $986 million dollars spent on the environment in this week?s NSW budget.
Climate Change and Environment Minister Verity Firth says $30 million will be spent over the next four years to minimise bushfire risk across the state's national parks with 16 million to upgrade radio networks in remote areas.
$90 million will be dedicated to tackling global warming, with rebates to encourage climate friendly living in homes.
And a $137 million water fund will be set up to buy water entitlements to improve the state's rivers and give long term sustainability to farming and regional communities.
There's performance payments for local councils which improve recycling systems and cut landfill, high resolution satellite imagery to help cut illegal clearing, and a crackdown on illegal dumping.
NSW councils have welcomed the significant boost to infrastructure funding in the NSW Budget, but say the lack of direct help to Local Government flies in the face of the recognition the sector is under funded.
The Budget has also done little new to address the $8 billion infrastructure back log facing the sector.
"The State Government's acknowledgement that infrastructure in NSW requires significant improvement is welcomed," President of the Local Government Association, Cr Genia McCaffery said.
"The Aboriginal Water and Sewerage Program is also a fantastic initiative, and we look forward to working with the Government to implement it.
President of the Shires Association of NSW, Cr Bruce Miller welcomed the continued funding for timber bridges and the Country Towns Water and Sewerage Supply Program (CTWSSP).
"Many rural and regional communities depend on this funding to maintain their local infrastructure, so we welcome the Government's ongoing commitment," Cr Miller said.
"The failure to increase library funding is of particular concern given the strength of the arguments for a substantial increase - including the risk of closure of some country libraries.
"The slight increase in funding for local and regional roads is a plus, but like a lot of the announcements, it falls short of real increases to costs through the CPI."
Amalgamated councils let down in Qld
The state government had seriously underestimated the massive costs amalgamated councils were facing when it framed yesterday's budget, Local Government Association of Queensland president,Cr Paul Bell said today.
"It appears there will be no additional funding beyond the $27.1 million allocated by the government last year following the recommendations of its Local Government Reform Commission," Cr Bell said.
"At that time, the LGAQ emphasised that ongoing funding support would be needed by these councils over the three-year transition phase to March, 2011," he said.
"The government has resolved that no new funding would be offered to councils to help them implement the amalgamation process - a process imposed on them by the government itself.
"The government has said it would consider individual submissions made to it on a case-by-case basis.
Cr Bell said the LGAQ executive was encouraging all councils involved to make submissions without delay.
"It is a high priority for the LGAQ. We will continue to press the government for adequate and timely reimbursement of these on-going costs," Cr Bell said.
Environment Minister says Govt committed to getting rid of plastic bags
The federal government remains committed to the phase-out of plastic bags, Environment Minister Peter Garrett says.
In April, federal and state environment ministers failed to agree on a national levy or ban on plastic bags.
"When we met to look at this issue of plastic bags, there were a number of issues on the table; the states couldn't agree on those options," Mr Garrett told ABC TV.
"We're committed to a phase-out but we recognise that the timeline has been extended."
ALGA recently attended the first meeting of the Government/Industry Working Group on plastic bags.
Infrastructure Australia meets
The twelve members of the new Infrastructure Australia Advisory Council met on Wednesday for the first time.
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese, said the task before the Council was immense: to develop a blueprint for fixing and modernising the nation's transport, water, energy and communications infrastructure.
"In accordance with the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008, I have written to the Council outlining the Government's expectations. First and foremost, they are charged with completing the work program laid down by COAG:
- By October, developing nationally consistent Public Private Partnership guidelines to make it easier and cheaper for the private industry to partner with government and invest in nation building infrastructure;
- By the end of the year, finalising the National Audit - a comprehensive and unprecedented stocktake of the nation's infrastructure; and
- By March 2009, compiling and delivering to COAG the first National Priority List to guide billions of dollars of investment in economically significant infrastructure - a process based on a rigorous assessment and prioritization of the nation's infrastructure needs, including in the area of public transport and tackling urban congestion."
Minister Albanese said the work and advice of Infrastructure Australia would inform the Government's allocations from the $20 billion Building Australia Fund.
The inaugural members of Infrastructure Australia are:
- Sir Rod Eddington - Chair
- The Hon Mark Birrell
- Mr Jim Hallion
- Dr Ken Henry AC
- Mr Phil Hennessy
- Mr Anthony Kannis
- Mr Terry Moran AO
- Professor Peter Newman
- Ms Heather Ridout
- Mr Ross Rolfe
- Dr Kerry Schott
- Mr Garry Weaven
Australian Automobile Association - National Climate Change Summit
This Summit held in Canberra on 3 June heard a wide range of speakers from industry and government discuss the future of the motor vehicles in an environment of shortages and rising oil prices and concerns about the emission of greenhouse gas from vehicles.
The transport sector produces about 16% of total greenhouse emission in Australia about half of which comes from cars and the rest from trucks and other forms of transport. The largest single producer of emission is the electricity generation.
The overriding message was that despite the increasing prices of oil, fossil fuels would continue to dominate as the energy source for vehicles. The Summit also heard that the era of cheap oil is over and that society and industry must adapt.
Statistics showed the strong trend in Australia towards smaller four cylinder cars. Somewhat disturbingly, they also showed that the local government vehicle fleet had a much higher proportion of six cylinder vehicles than either state governments, industry or the general community and only slightly less than the Commonwealth Government.
The Summit heard of developments in biofuels and the need to recognize that it was unlikely that this source would ever replace oil. There are already indications that the level of use of food crops for biofuels is contributing to the world food shortages. Technology under development to use enzymes to breakdown cellulose was showing considerable promise and would bolster the supply of biofuels.
There are rapid developments underway in vehicle technology to improve fuel efficiency such as plug-in hybrid cars which could be available within 3 years. The International Energy Agency estimates that the technologies currently under development will reduce fuel consumption by 50 % by 2030.
The ultimate alternative fuel to oil is hydrogen. This is a fuel that will produce no emissions and has been trialled in Australia. The major drawbacks of hydrogen is that its the production uses electricity and the need to establish a dedicated distribution system. Hydrogen fuel cell cars were estimated to be more than 30 years away.
Speakers also pointed out that consumers, with the increasing price of oil, will be making decisions to use alternative transport modes, especially in urban areas, and decisions about location of homes and employment. However this would only be possible if governments made decisions to invest in public transport to give commuters options.
In this regard, Minister Albanese spoke of the role of Infrastructure Australia in advising the government about investment decisions from the Building Australia Fund and specifically mentioned the role of Professor Peter Newman. Professor Newman is the member of Infrastructure Australia with local government experience.
More details of the Summit can be found on the Australian Automobile Association website
Strategic Transport Planning
The MAV is hosting a national conference on strategic transport planning from 20 ? 21 August at Spring Street Conference Centre, 1 Spring Street, Melbourne. Speakers include Professor Richard Slaughter, Foresight International; Ineke Spape, Netherlands National Board for Traffic and Transport Safety; Thomas Malone, MIT Sloan School of Management, USA; and Peter Newman, Infrastructure Australia board member. Cost to attend is $495 incl. GST. For a copy of the program, go to www.mav.asn.au/transport08. Contact John Hennessy, 9667 5525, firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the week
"Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves"
Jane Austen, 'Mansfield Park'
A new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the powerful momentum across the country to pass strong smoke-free workplace laws that protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.
Michigan and Pennsylvania have the most immediate opportunities to join the growing list of smoke-free states and communities. In Michigan, the state House should vote as soon as possible to concur with HB 4163, the comprehensive smoke-free legislation recently passed by a wide margin in the state Senate. In Pennsylvania, a legislative conference committee should approve legislation that rejects exemptions for bars and casinos and grants local governments the authority to enact their own, stronger smoke-free laws.
According to the CDC study, published in this week's issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the number of states with strong smoke-free laws tripled and the number with no such laws was halved between 2005 and 2007. During the study period, 18 states strengthened smoke-free protections in private sector worksites, 18 states strengthened protections in restaurants, and 12 states strengthened protections in bars (there was some overlap in these states). No state weakened smoke-free protections.
Since the study period, several more states have enacted smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. Today, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted such laws. The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Once these laws are fully implemented, more than 53 percent of the U.S. population will live in jurisdictions with smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars.