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The much-anticipated 2018/19 Federal Budget was handed down on Tuesday and focused on the big-ticket items of infrastructure investment and lowering taxation rates.

For our sector, this was a status quo budget with no new extra funding for local government.

We’re grateful that key funding streams such as Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs), Roads to Recovery (R2R), the Bridges Renewal Program, Black Spot Program and the Building Better Regions Fund went untouched and will continue at current levels.

The Government additionally committed $29.7 million to deliver local community sporting infrastructure grants of up to $500,000 to improve community sporting facilities, which is good news for our active residents.

However, the challenge of managing our ageing community infrastructure, as well as our growing infrastructure backlog, went unaddressed – further fuelling the need for a Local Government Community Infrastructure Program.

Although the Government committed itself to addressing productivity and growth issues, their reduction in investment at the local level flowing from the recent freeze on indexation of FAGs was not remedied in this budget and still needs to be addressed.

What’s more, the Government’s focus on freight missed an important opportunity by failing to address the first and last mile connectivity issue; the budget’s outline of a $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance program did not appear to address this issue.

We know almost every freight journey starts and ends on a road built, owned and maintained by local government. With the freight task set to double by 2020, the local roads that provide the first and final link in the complex national freight logistics chains must be brought up to standard and we can’t afford to upgrade them on our own. Higher productivity vehicles need to be able to operate straight out of the farm or factory gate, not just on the highway.

We need a complementary commitment to invest in first and last mile projects for the freight industry to fully realise gains across the arterial road network.

The Opposition’s Budget in Reply last night didn’t pick up on local government’s important priorities either, particularly those outlined in ALGA’s budget submission. These are the priorities that ALGA will advance in its federal election advocacy and the Government, and Opposition, will have the opportunity to address these priorities at the forthcoming election.

 

Mayor David O’Loughlin

 ALGA President



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