In an address to the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s annual conference in Hobart, ALGA President Genia McCaffery has reinforced the need for strong commitment from the Commonwealth in order to achieve constitutional recognition of local government.
ALGA maintains that the only way to ensure that direct funding for community services and infrastructure is protected is to have local government recognised in the Australian Constitution.
The decision to hold a referendum on the issue of constitutional recognition of local government by 2013 was made by Prime Minister Julia Gillard when forming Government in 2010.
In June 2011, the Government established an Expert Panel on the Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, which was chaired by former New South Wales Chief Justice, James Spigelman and included Genia McCaffery and ALGA Board member Councillor Paul Bell. The Expert Panel released a final report on 22 December last year supporting ALGA’s case for the financial recognition of local government in the Constitution through a simple change to section 96 to allow the continuation of direct funding. But the Government has not yet provided a formal response to the report.
“We need the Government to commit to the form of recognition it will carry to a referendum and the actual words that it will take, so that we can begin the national conversation that needs to take place with the Australian community,” Mayor McCaffery told the conference.
“Last month, Local Government Minister Simon Crean told our National General Assembly of Local Government that the Government would need to make a decision on a referendum by October this year.
“I am confident that we have a good chance of winning a referendum, provided the Government maintains its commitment and the question focuses on financial recognition.”
The 2012 National General Assembly (NGA) has been heralded a resounding success, with about 850 representatives from local government attending to make it one of the biggest ever.
The theme for the 2012 NGA, National Voice, Local Choice - Infrastructure, Planning, Services, allowed delegates to look at improving the way in which local government serves its communities and the way in which it works with other levels of government.
Resolutions from the NGA Debate on Motions have been published on the ALGA website.
Resolutions carried at the NGA will be considered by the ALGA Board in late July. Following this, ALGA will take appropriate action to follow-up each resolution. ALGA will write to the movers of each motion detailing the Board’s consideration and the action that will be taken to pursue each motion. The NGA website will also be continually updated over the next 12 months with details of the responses ALGA receives on each resolution. You can access these by clicking here.
ALGA has published the transcripts of speeches and copies of speakers’ presentations where they have been made available. A range of high profile federal politicians and influential subject matter experts addressed the NGA, including:
- Minister for Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, the Hon Simon Crean MP
- Leader of the Greens, Senator Christine Milne
- Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water, Senator Barnaby Joyce
- Professor George Williams, Constitutional Recognition
- Dr Stephen Bygrave, Clean Energy Regulator
- Mr Darrin Grimsey, Ernst and Young
- Dr Warren Mundy, Productivity Commission
- Mr Michael Frost, COAG Reform Council
If you were unable to attend in person or would like more information regarding a particular speaker, you can access this and more information about the NGA by clicking here.
ALGA is commissioning asset management consultants Jeff Roorda and Associates to carry out further analysis to build on critical work undertaken in 2010 that studied the gap in funding for local roads.
The results will be used in ALGA’s continued advocacy for increased government funding for local roads and form the basis of the next State of the Local Road Assets report that will be released later this year to provide a clearer picture of the state of local road assets in terms of their condition, functionality and utilisation.
In producing the State of the Local Road Assets report, more than 60 councils have now been nominated to participate in the first phase of the work.
This includes a mix of urban and non-urban councils that will be contacted directly by Jeff Roorda and Associates over the coming weeks to set up one-on-one meetings. Any council with a core level asset management plan and strategic plan as per the National Asset Management Framework (NAMF) should have no problem in completing the work required.
There is a direct link between reported sustainability and core level asset management under NAMF. The lower the maturity in core level asset management, the higher the reported backlog and renewal gap. As a council’s maturity grows with their core level asset management, they engage with their community on expectations around sustainable service levels. When this happens:
- Decisions on satisfactory service levels are made by councils engaging with communities based on asset management plans, risk and service level tradeoffs; and
- This replaces aspirational or optimal service levels based on technical criteria alone.
This makes the State of the Local Road Assets reporting essential so that councils can report on what communities can afford and service level consequences in a consistent way.
Regional Development is an important issue for many councils across Australia. ALGA holds an annual Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in June and publishes the annual State of the Regions Report. The annual report investigates regional development and encourages debate about current policy and how it might be improved.
I was pleased therefore to be able to attend the first meeting of the new COAG Regional Australia Standing Council of ministers in Alice Springs last Thursday and Friday. The meeting, chaired by Simon Crean, was a chance for all jurisdictions to get together and commit to doing the business of regional development in a different and more sustainable way. From a local government perspective I am strongly aware of the frustration and fatigue which councils, and all those engaged in regional development feel when we see chopping and changing in programs and policy when federal governments change. Consistency and perseverance should be the characteristics of good regional policy.
The first meeting of the Council was a constructive and cordial affair with presentations on different approaches being adopted in Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. There was also a chance to focus on the important issue of regional and local infrastructure and to hear from Ernst and Young, talking about their just completed report on local infrastructure financing, and Infrastructure Australia. The Council is going to take forward consideration of the thirteen recommendations of the Ernst and Young report and look at how some of the approaches in the report might be trialed.
I was particularly pleased that the meeting recognised the critical role of local government in regional development and the need to foster bottom up and place-based solutions.
The challenges of regional development, in a country as big as Australia, cannot be ignored but the only way we can encourage our regions to succeed is by getting the three levels of government working together as closely as possible and the new Standing Council is a good starting point
Mayor Genia McCaffery
The Australian Government is seeking local governments’ views on a proposed pilot for a community sponsorship program for refugees under Australia’s Humanitarian Program.
The program would provide communities to be directly involved in the resettlement of refugees.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, has released a discussion paper on the program, which is available on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website, or by clicking here.
The discussion paper identifies a number of important issues in developing a refugee sponsorship arrangement and the Australian Government wants input to assist in determining the feasibility and scope of a pilot program.
Councils are encouraged to download the discussion paper and make their views known.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week released the Federal Government’s guidelines for the $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund, which will unlock investment in communities dealing with the impacts of the mining boom.
The Government has set aside $6 billion for the Regional Infrastructure Fund as part of the proceeds of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax to pay for major road, rail, ports and other economic infrastructure to support growth.
Making the announcement during a visit to Rockhampton, the Prime Minister said the fund would spread the benefits of the boom across the entire nation.
“The Regional Infrastructure Fund is about supporting the communities who are at the forefront of Australia’s resources boom.
“The Fund is already investing in for infrastructure in mining communities, including supporting the $85 million Yeppen North Lagoon bridge and roundabout project, which is currently under construction,” The Prime Minister said.
“The release of these guidelines today means that all communities - state and local governments and other stakeholders - will now be able to submit detailed proposals to Infrastructure Australia for assessment.”
Infrastructure Australia will be charged with advising the Federal Government on how best to allocate funding over nine years.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced on 4 July that 36 communities across Australia will receive $15.2million to establish local NBN training services as part of the Gillard Government’s Digital Hubs and Digital Enterprises program.
The successful applicants will operate 24 Digital Hubs and 20 Digital Enterprise programs to highlight the opportunities of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
These programs will:
- help individuals in local communities improve their online and digital literacy skills;
- assist local residents to understand the opportunities created by the fast, affordable and reliable broadband delivered by the NBN; and
- work with small businesses and not-for-profit organisations to develop their online presence and take full advantage of the NBN.
The Australian Government has committed a total of $23.6 million in funding to establish Digital Hubs and Digital Enterprise training services in 40 of the first communities to benefit from the National Broadband Network.
There are several communities where the grant funding process is continuing and announcements regarding these communities will be made due course.
For a list of service providers announced under previous funding rounds or for more information please visit www.dbcde.gov.au/digitalhubs and www.dbcde.gov.au/digitalenterprise.
For further information about the National Digital Economy Strategy visit www.nbn.gov.au/the-vision/digitaleconomystrategy/.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy has encouraged people who travel around regional and remote Australia to start enjoying digital TV through the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service.
Speaking from the VAST processing centre in Townsville this week, the Minister said the VAST service is driving a quiet television revolution for travellers across regional and remote Australia.
“In 2011, domestic and international tourists spent 41 million nights in caravan parks around Australia.
There are also more than 50,000 Australian campervan and motor home owners. Until recently, the only TV someone could watch after a long day’s driving or sightseeing was the limited choice available on analogue television – sometimes fewer than four channels,” Senator Conroy said.
“Through VAST, people travelling across regional and remote Australia can now access up to 16 digital channels - the same as in the capital cities. This includes the five free-to-air networks and their multichannels, as well as regional news services, and specialised public service channels.
“The old Aurora Satellite service is being switched off on 31 December 2013, so I strongly encourage people to get themselves a satellite dish and apply for VAST now.”
To apply for the VAST, people should visit the Digital Ready Website www.digitalready.gov.au or call the Digital Ready Information Line on 1800 2010 13.
For more information about the switch to digital-only TV visit www.digitalready.gov.au or call the Digital Ready Information Line on 1800 20 10 13.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness Brendan O’Connor this week launched a federally-funded online tool to help south east Queenslanders make a more informed decision about housing.
Mr O’Connor unveiled the My Home, My Suburb Affordability Calculator, funded through the Australian Government’s Housing Affordability Fund, during a visit in Brisbane to meet with the Council of Mayors.
“This online calculator will help home buyers work out the real costs of their housing choices and enable them to make more informed decisions about where they want to live,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The online tool factors in the costs of housing and the costs of travel to and from work, schools, shops, services and other facilities.
“By having the right information, home buyers in south east Queensland will be in a better position to find a home that’s right for them.
“We know that Australia is currently facing a critical housing shortage and that’s particularly true here in south east Queensland.”
“Through the more than $400 million Housing Affordability Fund we are supporting 72 projects right across Australia - 11 in Queensland.
“Grants from this fund - to local councils, state government agencies and the private sector make housing more affordable by reducing infrastructure and planning related development costs.”
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has welcomed proposed planning zone reforms aimed at providing more certainty for councils, developers and communities.
Cr Bill McArthur, MAV President said the announcements responded to local government and MAV advocacy over many years that had called for better zones and tools to give effect to local planning policy.
“The proposed residential zones will at last make it easier to implement local policy through clear planning controls that specify where certain types of development can occur and what height limits apply.
“Council and community advocacy made new residential zones a priority of the former Government back in 2008 but local government was left frustrated after the reforms stalled. We’re really pleased that Minister Guy has moved to address these matters and offer greater protection for neighbourhood amenity.
“The changes will give councils the tools they need to implement policies about where substantial change, incremental change and limited change is wanted. This will be particularly useful in areas of development pressure that are undergoing unwelcome rates of change.”
The three proposed residential zones are a general residential zone (to allow modest housing growth while respecting urban amenity - mix of single dwellings, units and townhouses); neighbourhood residential zone (to restrict housing growth - preference for single dwellings and some dual occupancy); and residential growth zone (to encourage new medium density housing growth - town houses and apartments).
Cr McArthur said the Minister for Planning has also acted to address calls by rural councils about prohibited uses and minimum lot sizes within the farming zone.
Did you know that Austroads provides free access to all their publications for local government?
Austroads wants to ensure all local government agencies are aware of this and are using Austroads guides, research and technical reports where needed.
All local government agencies have pre-determined login details which can be accessed via contacting the Austroads office. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and include your council’s location and contact details in your signature for identification purposes.
Austroads works with local government to improve Australia’s road and transport systems, recognising the importance of developing the local road component of the national road network.
Local government is a member of Austroads through ALGA. In addition there is an agreement between Austroads, ALGA and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA).
The agreement recognises that local roads comprise around 85 per cent of the Australian road network and are important for social economic development within communities. The agreement seeks to improve communication between the three organisations and their constituents, and helps ensure the management of local roads and the resolution of strategic local road issues are facilitated with the benefit of knowledge, technology, best practice and research outputs from Austroads’ activities.
This year there will be no extension to the nomination period for 2012 National Disability Awards, which close on 20 July, so get nominating!
The award categories illustrate the breadth of activity and achievement in the disability sector with categories covering:
- lifelong and youth achievement;
- developers, builders improving access;
- creation of job opportunities for people with disability;
- advocacy, education and inclusion; and
- health and wellbeing services.
Increasing recognition for the disability sector encourages the development of more inspirational role models who overcome the barriers and challenges that disability can present.
Last year’s finalists included:
- Michael Simpson in NSW who has spent a lifetime dedicated to advocating rights of people with disability;
- 18 year old Peter Hall from WA who is shaping the way his community makes facilities more accessible to people with a disability; and
- 20 year old Elisha Bramhall who has down syndrome and is inspiring people to overcome challenges and achieve their dreams.
Finalists are announced in September - October with the awards held at the National Gallery of Australia on 23 November 2012.
The National Disability Awards are part of Australia’s celebrations to mark the International day of People with Disability celebrated on 3 December 2012.
For more information visit the International Day of People with Disability website at www.idpwd.com.au or call 1800 440 385 to get the details.
With the closing date for Volunteer Grants 2012 fast approaching, the Australian Government is encouraging not-for-profit organisations across Australia to apply.
The Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, said today the Government is continuing to support Australia’s community organisations with $16 million available in volunteer grants.
“Applications close on Wednesday 25 July, which means community organisations have just two weeks left to apply,” Ms Macklin said.
“Grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 are available to eligible not-for-profit organisations to help purchase much-needed small equipment items such as computers, first aid kits and sunshades.
“The grants can also be used to help pay for volunteers' fuel costs, training courses, and background checks.”
To support Australians most in need, preference for grants will be given to organisations with volunteers that assist disadvantaged communities and encourage inclusion of vulnerable people in community life.
“Last year more than 4,600 organisations received Volunteer Grants funding, which helped support over 200,000 hard-working volunteers.
Apply at www.fahcsia.gov.au or call the Volunteer Grants Hotline on 1800 183 374.
Caritas Australia will be holding the Walk as One inaugural forum from 25-26 August in Sydney.
The forum is a part of a broader advocacy campaign aimed at challenging the injustices faced by indigenous communities throughout the world and promoting positive solutions.
The forum will bring together delegates from all over Australia with a shared interest in improving the rights and recognition of Indigenous communities globally.
For more information about the forum, including speaker profiles, workshops and registration visit: caritas.org.au/walkasone