As well as identifying areas of strategic priority for ALGA’s work, ALGA’s 2017-20 Strategic Plan also determines areas where ALGA will facilitate collaboration between state and territory associations.
These areas include:
- local government’s role in Indigenous policy issues
- scale and capacity of local government
- women in local government
- Constitutional reform
A number of councils across Australia are responsible for the provision of municipal services to Indigenous communities. These are in addition to those services that are the responsibility of state, territory or the Commonwealth governments. However, these councils do not have access to resources, including own-source rate revenue, to provide these services and infrastructure. The decision by the Commonwealth to end its role in funding and national coordination of essential services has had real and significant impacts.
ALGA believes that the provision of appropriate municipal services and infrastructure in indigenous communities is a joint responsibility between all levels of government. ALGA is working to promote improved coordination and engagement with local government, particularly Indigenous local government councils, to improve the delivery of all government services and infrastructure to Indigenous communities.
It is important going forward that the voices of Indigenous councils and elected officials are heard loud and clear and that their knowledge and experiences underpin the development of effective policy and advocacy.
Women in Local Government
As the level of government closest to the community, it is important that councils reflect the communities they serve. The more representative councils are at the elected and senior management levels, the better and more relevant will be the quality of our decision-making.
Women account for a higher proportion of staff positions (46%) but this falls as the management level rises.
In 2017 The 2020 Foundation revealed that gender equality advances have stalled across Australia’s local government sector. The rates of women in senior positions are far lower than any other tier of government. At the last round of local government elections, women accounted for just 32% of all candidates and were elected to 30% of positions. Even fewer (24%) mayoral candidates were women but almost all were elected. Women account for a higher proportion of staff positions (46%) but this falls as the management level rises. Only 11% of council chief executives are women.
Improving the gender balance in local government – and through this, local government’s representative and inclusive nature – will not happen overnight, but ALGA is committed to initiatives and strategies that support this.
2010 was the Year of Women in Local Government during which ALGA released a publication in support – it can be accessed here.
On 9 May 2013, the Prime Minister announced the Federal Government’s intention to proceed with a referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution. The referendum was set to be held on the same day as the Federal election on September 14, 2013 and would ask Australians to cast a vote on the “financial” recognition of local government through the amendment of Section 96 of the Constitution. If passed, the amendment would enable the Commonwealth to continue to provide direct funding to local government for vital community services and infrastructure, something governments from both sides of politics have been doing for more than a decade.
Following a leadership spill on 26 June 2013, former Prime Minister the Hon. Julia Gillard was replaced as Prime Minister by the Hon. Kevin Rudd. The announcement of an early election by Prime Minister Rudd on August 4 2013 ended the possibility of a referendum in 2013.
ALGA’s motivation in seeking financial recognition was to remove uncertainty created by two High Court challenges (the Pape and Williams cases) that cast doubt on the Commonwealth’s ability to fund local government directly. This uncertainty remains and has not diminished. On 8 August 2013 Mr Ron Williams initiated a further challenge in the High Court, which goes to the validity of the Federal Financial Frameworks Act 2012. This Act was part of the Commonwealth Government’s response to the High Court’s decision on Mr William’s first case to provide legislative backing for the funding of hundreds of programs which were placed in constitutional uncertainty by the High Court’s decision. A further challenge could build on the High Court’s decisions in the two previous cases and on the limits of the Commonwealth’s executive powers.
The only way to resolve the uncertainty surrounding this funding is through a referendum. Adequate resourcing of local councils to meet the needs of their communities is in everyone’s interest. ALGA will continue to seek opportunities and advocate for appropriate legal certainty of direct Commonwealth payments to local government.