The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed this week's release of the draft constitutional amendment bill, which outlines a small and pragmatic change to the Constitution to include local government.
The draft bill includes an amendment to Section 96 of the Constitution so that it would read: "Parliament may grant financial assistance to any state or any local government body formed by a law of a State on such terms as the Parliament sees fit."
The bill will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks and ALGA has called on the Opposition to support the legislation to allow a referendum on financial recognition of local government to proceed at the time of the September federal election.
This week, legislation was passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate to allow public funding to be used for campaigns to ensure voters are properly informed of the case for constitutional recognition of local government.
Measures outlined in the 2013-14 Budget confirm that in addition to the funding provided to the Australian Electoral Commission to run the referendum, the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, the Arts and Sport will receive $11.6 million to undertake a national civics education campaign to provide information to the general public on the referendum reform process.
ALGA applauds the Australian Government for its support to include local government in the Constitution.
"Including local government in the Constitution is about securing federal funding for vital local services and infrastructure for communities across the country," ALGA Vice President, Troy Pickard said.
"Without financial recognition in the Constitution, programs such as Roads to Recovery are at risk of High Court challenge and neither councils nor communities can afford that risk.
"Passing a September referendum to include local government in the Constitution is in the interests of every local community and councils will be working hard to convince their residents to vote 'yes' to community infrastructure and services when they head to the polls in September."
The Australian Government's 2013-14 Budget has delivered several new funding initiatives for local government.
President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Mayor Felicity-ann Lewis has welcomed the plan outlined by Treasurer Wayne Swan to return Australia to a Budget surplus over the coming years.
"This plan offers opportunities over the coming years to invest in areas vital for our future growth and to build stronger communities," Mayor Lewis said.
"Funding such as $40 million in additional assistance to rebuild flood-damaged communities and $12.9 million in support to enable councils to connect to the NBN have been positively received.
"Local government especially welcomes the Budget's allocation of $44.1 million for municipal and essential services in Indigenous communities.
"We also welcome funding of $9.1 million over four years to create a 'one-stop shop' for grants advertising and reporting and $9.9 million over two years to upgrade remote community landing strips."
ALGA’s Budget Submission noted that this was always going to be a difficult Budget. In order to address the continued revenue write-downs generated from weaker resource prices and the continued high value of the Australian dollar, there has been the need for some difficult choices.
Local government understands better than most the pressures of delivering services with tight resources. However, as our Submission stressed, times of financial restraint do not negate the need to invest in vital services, programs and infrastructure. Nor do the circumstances that call for that investment change to suit the financial situation.
Mayor Lewis welcomed the Government's decision to again bring forward the first two quarterly payments of the Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) of the 2013-14 financial year, worth $1.3 billion into 2012-13.
FAGs funding assists councils to deliver vital local services and infrastructure and councils are receiving a total of $2.2 billion under this program in 2012-13.
Preparations for this year's Regional Cooperation and Development Forum to be held in Canberra on 16 June are well underway, with ALGA expecting more than 300 people to attend this annual event. Every indication is that this year will see the largest number of delegates to ever attend the Forum.
The Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sports has confirmed that all 55 Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committee Chairs, Deputy Chairs and Executive officers have been invited to attend this year's forum in Canberra. The combination of representatives from local governments and RDAs will provide an opportunity for both groups to further explore how they can better work together to meet the regional challenges facing the nation, be they metropolitan, regional or remote issues.
Professor Barbara Norman is this year's Forum facilitator. Professor Norman is Foundation Chair, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Canberra. She is also the deputy chair of the ACT RDA.
During the Forum, National Economics will launch this year's State of the Regions report, providing detailed analysis of the national economy and consideration of the merits of regional policy and how it should be operating in Australia. For the first time, this year's Forum will provide an afternoon technical breakout session for delegates who are interested in further discussing significant data and analysis contained in this year's report.
The keynote will be delivered by Professor John Martin of Latrobe University. Professor Martin is a well-known and respected regional academic who has agreed to provide a comparative analysis of local governance and regional development from recent work he has been undertaking in Canada.
The Forum will also hear from the Minister for Regional Services, Local Communities and Territories, Catherine King.
Participants for an afternoon panel session on emergency management and development will include representatives from the Regional Australia Institute, the Commonwealth Attorney Generals Department and the Torrens Resilience Institute.
ALGA is pleased that there will be 16 poster presentations available at this year's Forum that will provide an excellent snapshot of regional development initiatives designed to share best practice and hands-on experience with others.
Registrations for the Forum are still being accepted and substantial discounts are available for those also attending this year's NGA. For more information, visit the ALGA website: alga.asn.au
I would like to take this opportunity to address misinformation about the motivation to hold a referendum to include local government in the Constitution. The point of a referendum to include local government in the Constitution is to secure funding for local services and infrastructure. Claims by some pundits that the referendum is part of a "takeover by Canberra" are absurd. A referendum would in fact simply confirm the Federal Government's ability to directly fund local government. It would formally acknowledge the financial relationship between federal and local government. A relationship which already exists and has existed for many years.
Councils provide a full range of services which is only possible because councils work in partnership with the federal government. Without direct funding from the Australian Government for local roads and community infrastructure, councils would not be able to provide all the services that our communities need. This is why councils need formal recognition as legitimate recipients of direct federal funding. Without it, programs such as Roads to Recovery are at risk of High Court challenge. We have seen two recent examples of successful High Court challenges in which direct Commonwealth funding was called into doubt. Voting 'yes' at a referendum to include local government in the Constitution is about voting 'yes' for community infrastructure and services.
Direct funding to councils through the Roads to Recovery program has been provided by the Federal Government since 2001. This funding is made available on the condition that it can only be used for local roads. I do not agree with the assertion that such conditions amount to the Commonwealth directing local government by "attaching policy strings to funding".
Despite the suggestion that the provision of direct funding to councils has always been "a Labor dream to undermine the federation, bypass the states and control local government from Canberra" the arrangement was actually first started by the Howard Government in 2001. It was a rational response to the way federation works, where the Commonwealth collects more than 80 per cent of Australia's taxation revenue but has no responsibility to support local services and infrastructure. Given Australians pay more than $350 billion in tax to the Federal Government each year, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that some of it will be returned to local governments directly to be spent on local services and infrastructure.
The words put forward for the change to the Constitution have been settled deliberately to ensure that there will be no change to the status of local government and no change to state governments' ability to regulate and oversee councils. The Federal Government gains no extra power over councils as a result of local government being included in the Constitution.
This is about ensuring that federal funding continues to flow into our communities for vital services and facilities and only a ‘yes’ vote at a referendum will allow this to happen.
Mayor Felicity-ann Lewis
Australia Post has launched its new community program - Our Neighbourhood, a national grants program.
Our Neighbourhood Community Grants are open to eligible registered charities and community organisations for amounts between $1000 and $25,000 to support local projects.
Our Neighbourhood Community Grants will be awarded to organisations with projects that help connect local communities and foster inclusion across Australian neighbourhoods.
Australia Post plays an essential role in connecting Australian neighbourhoods and understands the importance of investing at a grass roots level.
The Our Neighbourhood program has been designed to provide opportunities for people from varying backgrounds and communities. With a focus on local, it will also extend to regional and remote, the disadvantaged, the culturally diverse and small business.
Our Neighbourhood Community Grants are now open for applications and will close on Friday, 28 June 2013 at 5pm (AEST).
All information regarding the Our Neighbourhood Community Grants can be found at www.ourneighbourhood.com.au
Five of the states and territories have now signed on to the Federal Government's National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness for 2013/14 guaranteeing federal funds will flow to their states.
Mr Butler said the Commonwealth had put up to $159 million on the table in March on the condition that states matched funding.
"New South Wale, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT have all signed on to the agreement, which also makes them eligible to bid for further funding under the Development Fund as part of a competitive process," Mr Butler said.
"This funding will ensure services which help give people a hand up every day have the certainty they need to continue delivering critical support."
Mr Butler said achieving real results in reducing homelessness was only possible through joint responsibility and collaborative action.
“The transitional agreement provides funding to the sector over the next 12 months, while the Australian and state and territory governments negotiate a longer-term response to homelessness."
"It's now time for Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory to provide surety to homelessness service providers and their clients by committing their share of funds and signing the agreement as soon as possible."
The National Partnership Agreement is part of the Federal Government's $26 billion investment in housing and homelessness services, which aims to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020.
The Australian Greens say the passage of the NDIS levy provides a cornerstone of care, support and security for Australians with disability.
"I congratulate people with disability, families, friends, carers and supporters who have worked towards this outcome for so long," Senator Rachel Siewert said.
"This has been a long road. People have told me over the past months and years that they're just sick of waiting.
"The NDIS is part of a caring society and as a result of today's vote, people know that long term funding can be provided and that the scheme is secured.
"Anyone can find themselves with disability, and so it is good to know that as a nation we are putting in place the mechanisms to help people when they need it.
"On this important day for the country, I have a lingering sense of disappointment that WA, my home state, remains on the outer.
"There are significant gaps of unmet need in WA, despite the Premier's claims to the contrary.
"I look forward to the implementation of DisabilityCare and to WA joining the scheme," Senator Siewert concluded.
The Australian Government will set a new target aimed at increasing access to services for Indigenous people with disability.
This will strengthen efforts to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage by ensuring that the benefits of DisabilityCare Australia are realised for Indigenous people.
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Disability Reform Jenny Macklin announced the proposed new target at the launch of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia’s 10 point plan for the implementation of DisabilityCare Australia.
The Government also announced $900,000 over three years for the First People's Disability Network Australia to provide services to assist Indigenous Australians to understand and access support from DisabilityCare Australia.
A new target will concentrate efforts on closing the gap for Indigenous Australians with disability and ensure they are not left behind in the implementation of DisabilityCare Australia.
The target will be developed through a working group of key Indigenous and disability stakeholders, chaired by Damian Griffis, Executive Officer of First Peoples Disability Network, in parallel with discussions with state and territory governments.
The working group will be asked to report to Government on options for a possible target that could be agreed by the Council of Australian Governments. An interim report is to be provided by mid July 2013.
The communities of Inverell and Glen Innes have been congratulated by the Independent Member for New England, Tony Windsor on their successful funding applications to assist in the development of infrastructure.
The Minister for Regional Services, Catherine King made the announcement today that each community would receive $500,000 from Round 3 of the Regional Development Australia Fund.
Inverell's $500,000 will go towards the redevelopment of Varley Oval Sporting Complex whilst Glen Innes' funding will go towards the upgrading of infrastructure at Glenn Innes Airport including the extensions of airside apron and taxiways.
Mr Windsor has welcomed the announcements: "I congratulate the Inverell Shire Council and the Glen Innes Severn Council on their success through a very competitive process."
"Varley Oval is the main sports ground in Inverell. Its redevelopment will ensure that major sporting events can be catered for in all conditions.
"Inverell Shire Council is also investing nearly $600,000 in the project thereby further adding to the ability of Inverell to attract major sporting events to Inverell.
"Council has previously invested in developing Varley Oval and this next stage continues the community’s desire to make it the centre of sporting excellence in the region," Mr Windsor said.
The Housing Industry of Australia (HIA) launched has launched its federal election policy imperatives. The industry association is urging all political parties to consider 50 policy options which it believes will address the housing problems faced in Australia. These include taxation reform, greater infrastructure funding, support for greater research and development for domestic manufacturing, further review the banking sector and a request that the Productivity Commission to undertake a broad investigation of the state of the Australian housing market.
The HIA is Australia's largest residential building organisation. Members include builders, trade contractors, design professionals, kitchen and bathroom specialists, manufacturers and suppliers.
The election document can be downloaded from Australianeedsbuilding.com.au
Violence against women is prevalent in our society; it is real and cannot be ignored. From affluent suburbs to the most remote corners of the continent, violence against women is happening every day.
Councillor Bill McArthur, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) said as the level of government closest to the people, councils are ideally placed to lead by example and model gender equitable and respectful relationships.
"When you think about the investment that governments place on physical activity, alcohol, smoking and cholesterol, it is shocking to learn that violence from men is the leading contributor to preventable ill health, death and disability in Victorian women aged 15 to 44."
At a White Ribbon conference today Cr McArthur launched Prevention of Violence Against Women - Leading change in the Victorian local government sector; a handbook showcasing the good work of eight Victorian councils in their efforts to eliminate violence from our society, developed with funding support from VicHealth.
"Darebin City Council for example, has been a leader in preventing violence against women by taking a whole-of-council approach. They self-funded a preventing violence against women officer, and last year endorsed a Women's Equity Strategy which is being implemented through two action plans.
"Maribyrnong City Council’s work provides an evidence base for projects occurring in partnership with the community. The book provides an overview of Maribyrnong’s efforts, including local young people creating hip-hop music inspired by the white ribbon campaign and council’s corporate values of 'respect, courage, integrity'.
"Another exciting case study tells of Strathbogie Shire, a small rural council without the resources of bigger councils, but with the equivalent passion. It is working with local sporting clubs to promote the preventing violence against women message and implement a 'White Ribbon Round' in the annual fixture.
"Local government is also leading the way through its role as an employer. Surf Coast Shire made industrial relations history in 2010 as the first organisation in the world to introduce a family violence clause into its Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. At least 20 Victorian councils have followed suit, and more than one million Australian workers are now covered by paid family violence agreements."
Maitland's fight to curb graffiti may be bolstered by a "new weapon in the arsenal" after councillors endorsed the use of an app aimed at catching vandals.
Staff will begin investigating whether Vandal Trak, a smartphone application, could cut down on graffiti clean-up costs and reduce damage.
The app allows phone users to take photos of graffiti tags and immediately upload them to a database.
The council can then log in and see at a glance where problems are occurring.
Similar tags are grouped together, potentially giving investigators proof of repeat offenders' exploits.
A report to last night’s council meeting pegged the cost of accessing the database at between $2000 and $6000 a year.
Cr Henry Meskauskas, who brought the matter to councillors, said Hunter police had supported the council formally adopting the technology.
He said strong results in Sydney and the Illawarra indicated it could be a cost-effective tool.
"It's a great weapon and this is a situation where we have to be on the front foot.
"It has been a very successful one [in other areas]," Cr Meskauskas said.
A Round Table on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics was held in Canberra in March 2013 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The purpose of the Round Table is to improve the quality of data from ABS's surveys and censuses, its engagement strategies and efforts to improve statistical literacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Julie Nankervis, ABS Director of the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics said; "We rely on our Indigenous Engagement Managers (IEMs) as the main source of operational level advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."
"These conversations are just the start. Informed decision-making leads to better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. Our goal is to ensure our data is relevant and useful."
"The Round Table establishes an additional avenue for discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from outside the ABS. This input is combined with the knowledge and experience of the IEMs to create a rich source of operational advice to draw upon," she said.
Round Table member, Sonia Townson said; "It's impressive to see the ABS continuing with the grassroots engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that it so successfully conducted in the lead up to and throughout the 2011 Census. We’re all excited about the opportunity to have input into how the ABS collects data and how it returns information back to the community".
For more information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics visit www.abs.gov.au
The Local Government Association of South Australia has paid tribute to its former past President and long serving Mayor of Port Augusta, Joy Baluch, who died overnight after a long battle with cancer.
LGA President, Mayor David O’Loughlin said Mayor Baluch made an outstanding contribution to her community and to Local Government over more than 40 years.
"Joy was a strong woman with strong opinions and a fearless warrior for her beloved Port Augusta - she referred to as the Centre of the Universe," Mayor O’Loughlin said.
"She was a legend in Local Government and in the wider community, there were few people who had not heard her name and with Joy it was definitely once met, never forgotten.
"Joy was very rarely lost for words and she fought against this insidious illness with the single minded determination she was renowned for."
Mayor Baluch stood for election on the Port Augusta City Council 14 times. She was defeated twice but defeated opponents nine times and was elected unopposed three times.
ALGA acknowledges with sadness the passing of Mayor Baluch who also served as South Australia's representative on the ALGA Board.
Riversymposium 2013: a bridge between food, water and energy
Food, water, and energy professionals must all share scarce freshwater resources. But do we share, or do we compete? And is the process constructive?
If you work in one of these sectors, you might’ve wondered if better integration is possible.
Find the answers at the 16th International Riversymposium. Food, water and energy professionals from across the globe will gather in Brisbane from September 23-26 to connect, learn from each other, and share solutions.
Examples of possible issues on the program include:
- How do we reconcile demands for biofuels with food production and finite water supply?
- Are energy-intensive water supply solutions like desalination and inter-basin pipelines sustainable?
- What is the best use for ‘produced water’ from coal seam gas extraction?
- Can urban food production play a serious role in tackling the food security challenge?
Earlybird registration for Riversymposium is now open at riversymposium.com
REGISTER NOW FOR THE AUSTRALIA DAY NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR EVENT ORGANISERS
13-14 June 2013, Old Parliament House Canberra
The Australia Day National Conference 2013 is your chance to get together with Australia Day event organisers from around the nation to share ideas, knowledge and inspiration.
At the Conference, held 13-14 June in Canberra, you will learn how to grow your Australia Day events, gain knowledge and skills through targeted presentations, learn from the experience of your peers through case studies and hear from amazing keynote speakers:
Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose will present on making the most out of life’s opportunities
Social justice campaigner Tom Calma will speak about reconciliation and closing the gap.
Cricket legend and National Australia Day Council Chair Adam Gilchrist will inspire you with a session on how to reach positive outcomes and keeping everybody happy.
There will also be targeted presentations on sponsorship, risk management, effective marketing and promotion and of course time for networking, so register now at www.australiaday.org.au/conference
To find more information on our special group discount rates or to see the conference program, visit the Australia Day website www.australiaday.org.au/conference
AUSTRALASIA'S PREMIER EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
Early Bird Registrations are open for the 2013 AFAC & Bushfire CRC Conference.
The theme for 2013 is Shaping Tomorrow Together, reflecting that emergency services will need to work together collaboratively with the community and other partners from the education, health, business and research sectors, and all levels of government, to shape our future.
This year's conference will run from 2-5 September at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
The conference is designed for delegates with a responsibility for, or involvement in, emergency management, and is the biggest emergency management conference in Australasia. The conference is the largest gathering of emergency management practitioners, technical experts and researchers in our region.
- 1-day, all hazards Research Forum: 2 September
- 2-day conference: 3-4 September
- Gala Dinner: 3 September
- Debate "Is it only a disaster that brings us together?" 4 September
- 6 Professional Development Workshops: 5 September
- 4 Field Study Tours from 1 September
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Forum: 2 September
For further information, including keynote speakers and registration details, go to www.afac2013.org
The Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) is the peak body for fire and emergency services in Australasia, creating synergy across the industry.
About the Bushfire CRC
The Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre is funded by the Australian Government as the national research centre for fire and emergency services.
Follow us on Twitter @afacnews