President’s Column 21 June 2019

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

Well, if the huge amount of feedback we received is any guide, what a fabulous National General Assembly we’ve just had! Thank you to the nearly 900 people who travelled to Canberra this week to join us for the Assembly, and the over 250 who attended the most popular and well-received Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in years.

On behalf of all attendees, I repeat what I said in my closing address and extend a special thank you to all ALGA staff, especially National Events Director, Jill Brown, CEO Adrian Beresford-Wylie, Conference Coordinators, NGA sponsors, exhibitors and our wonderful speakers for helping put on an unforgettable 25th Assembly.

More than 120 motions ranging from constitutional recognition to climate change, recycling, water management, housing and gambling reforms were passed, and the ALGA Board looks forward to considering them at our next board meeting in July.

We were very pleased that not only was Acting Prime Minister, the Hon. Michael McCormack MP, able to open our Assembly so positively, but that the new Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation & Local Government, the Hon. Mark Coulton MP, and the Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, the Hon. Jason Clare MP, spent so much time with us.

I think it’s fair to say that it has been many years, if at all, since we have heard at the NGA such an eagerness at the Federal level to work with us and to learn from local government, including that shown by Mr Coulton and Mr Clare this past week. We are very grateful that they allocated so much of their time to our Assembly, and in sideline meetings with local council members from across Australia.

On your behalf, I look forward to more meetings with Mr Coulton and Mr Clare and their colleagues in the incoming Parliament, and sharing the concerns and aspirations of local councils from across Australia.

It was pleasing that both Mr Coulton and Mr Clare publicly acknowledged the importance of Financial Assistance Grants to local government, and are open to hearing us share why it’s vital that the funding imbalance since 1996 be addressed.

Minister Coulton also announced that the City of Stirling (WA) was the national winner of the National Award for Excellence in Local Government at the Gala Dinner on Tuesday. Stirling’s Kaleidoscope Initiative helps new arrivals to Australia find secure work in their field of expertise. Congratulations to the City of Stirling and all award winners for their outstanding efforts to innovate and meet the needs of their communities.

Unfortunately, the Australian Coordinator-General of Drought Major General Stephen Day was too ill to host the drought workshop during the Assembly. Dozens of local councils still met with myself and the ALGA team and shared how the ongoing drought continues to hurt their communities.

Whilst some things are working well, we heard how bureaucracy is impacting the aid process, the June 30 deadline is unachievable, and concern over aid packages running out despite the ongoing drought.

We will compile the many ideas and responses we received and present those to the Federal Government including at a meeting with the Minister for Drought, David Littleproud in coming weeks. I’m very pleased that Minister Coulton has already confirmed concessions will be granted for June 30 completions for many councils.

We hope you enjoyed the diverse range of speakers who presented at Sunday’s Regional Cooperation and Development Forum and the Assembly. Where permission has been given, here are the speakers’ presentations for their respective sessions. We’ll update these links as more presentations are received.

Finally, congratulations to the newly-elected members of the Local Government Association of Tasmania General Management Committee. Mayor of West Tamar, Christina Holmdahl, was elected as LGAT President and is anticipated to join the ALGA board in due course. The other committee members are:

Mayor Darryl Quilliam (Circular Head Council), Mayor Annette Rockliff (Devonport City Council), Mayor Mick Tucker (Break O’Day Council), Mayor Ben Shaw (Derwent Valle4y Council) and Alderman Brendan Blomeley (City of Clarence).

The members have been elected until July 2021 and on behalf of ALGA, I wish them every success as they make decisions on behalf of Tasmanian councils.

For those of you who travelled home from Canberra this week, I hope your journey was safe and arriving home was joyful. After a brief recovery, I’m sure you are gearing up to implement your top three NGA ideas over coming months!

Finally, here are two interviews recording during the NGA with ABC Radio National (about recycling and waste) and ABC TV News about recycling, and how the state and federal governments can assist local councils, such as by changing road surfacing specifications.

All the best

David O’Loughlin
ALGA President