Failure to include the Australian Local Government Association in the National Cabinet is a lost opportunity to drive jobs growth and economic reform at the local level, President David O’Loughlin said last week.
His comments followed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on 31 May that the Council of Australian Governments had been abolished and replaced by a new National Federation Reform Council built around the National Cabinet.
ALGA had been a COAG member since its inception in 1992.
Mayor O’Loughlin said: “In this new environment, with the coronavirus pandemic largely suppressed and where the emphasis is now shifting to economic recovery, it has never been more vital for the three tiers of government to be aligned to support and facilitate jobs growth and to get our economy back on track”.
The full federation reform council will meet annually and will include representatives from ALGA and the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) – made up of federal and state treasurers.
“To relegate 537 councils and 6500 elected members to one invitation a year to speak in a room that will be crowded with treasurers and hangers-on doesn’t nearly do justice to the work that local government does and can do in the nation’s interest,” Mayor O’Loughlin said
“Local government has long had a strong role in economic development and investment attraction.
“From our first council in Adelaide in 1840 to the present day, there isn’t a council in the land that doesn’t have an eye to the future and a strategy to get there.
“To not embrace this goodwill and planning within National Cabinet is to the detriment of the nation,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.
He said ALGA was seeking clarification from Mr Morrison about its role in the reform councils sitting beneath National Cabinet.
Other local government associations also expressed reservations, with LGNSW President Linda Scott urging state and territory leaders to advocate on behalf of local government and their communities to ensure their representation is not diminished.
MAV President Coral Ross said the best interests of the community were best served when all three levels of government worked in close cooperation.
“Reform, as a key objective of the new National Cabinet, can only ever be achieved when a strong local government voice and presence is front and centre of any agenda,” she said.