The Australian Local Government Association’s submission for the 2020-21 Federal Budget outlines how funding at the local level can support the Commonwealth’s priorities of keeping the economy strong, and Australians safe and together.
Local Government has repeatedly demonstrated it is a reliable, professional and cost-effective partner in delivering Commonwealth programs, for example the more than 60,000 projects in partnership with the Commonwealth since the creation of the $6.3 billion Roads to Recovery Program in 2001, the ALGA submission said.
“ALGA believes that increased economic productivity will be enhanced if the Government’s priorities include a focus on partnering with Local Government to invest in local services and infrastructure that strengthen community wellbeing, social cohesion and local economies,” the submission said.
“The resilience of local communities depends in part on the financial sustainability of their local governments and that sustainability can be greatly advanced by restoring the quantum of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) to at least 1 per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.
“Investment at the local level through a partnership with Local Government is vital to boosting national productivity and meeting the challenges associated with population growth and demographic change.”
The submission also emphasizes increasing Roads to Recovery to $800m per annum to boost Local Government’s component of the national road network and boost road safety, and making the Bridges Renewal Program permanent.
The Commonwealth should also address South Australia’s road fund anomaly by making permanent the additional $20m allocated in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
As ALGA President O’Loughlin noted in his column, resilience is a major component of ALGA’s representations to the Commonwealth, because local communities’ potential is hindered whenever they are hit by a natural disaster, persistent drought, or fluctuations in global trade.
“To help achieve this we propose a targeted disaster mitigation program at a level of $200 million per annum for four years and a Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund of $200 million over four years,” our submission says.
Local governments are on the frontline when dealing with the risks and impacts of climate variability, and some are struggling to understand the consequences and how they can respond to ensure their communities’ resilience.
They need Commonwealth help to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and have a significant role in mitigating the degree of climate change which may occur.
“Many communities are exposed to natural disasters on a recurring basis and experience repeated disruptions from floods, cyclones and fires,” the submission said.
“Natural disasters around the country have claimed many lives, impacted hundreds of thousands of people and local and regional economies, and caused major property and infrastructure damage.”
The submission also said that investing in programs to mitigate natural disasters and respond to climate change yields a double dividend because it creates social and economic ‘co-benefits’ in the absence of disasters or significant rises in temperature.
“The co-benefits may include employment growth; regional growth associated with investment and transition to new industries, and increased consumer expenditure resulting from lower insurance premiums and expenditure on energy, for example.”
Indigenous wellbeing can continue to be fostered through the continuation of at least $4.8 billion over a decade through programs that address communities’ needs, such as overcrowding, homelessness, and housing shortages in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The submission also recommends ensuring equitable access to community services and stimulate local economies by investing in a Local Government Community Infrastructure Program of $300 million per annum over four years.