This week I’ve been in Canberra, advocating on your behalf to some of the new ministers in the second Morrison Ministry.
I appreciated being able to again see Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, the Hon. Mark Coulton MP, so soon after our National General Assembly for Local Government, which the Minister generously attended three times.
We were pleased to hear Minister Coulton tell our Assembly that he “will do all he can to be our voice in Canberra”.
ALGA, the state and territory local government associations and all councils need to present a united voice so Minister Coulton hears loud and clear that we can work effectively as trusted partners with the Australian Government to deliver for our communities and the nation as a whole.
I also enjoyed my first formal meeting with Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, the Hon. Nolan Marino MP, and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Hon. Catherine King MP.
These were useful meetings in which we discussed the Government’s emerging priorities related to local government and regional development, and how ALGA might work with the ministers on shared priorities.
They were also a chance to explore the opportunities for local government to work more closely with the Australian Government as a partner on issues around infrastructure, productivity and economic development and growth.
These are matters which may assume greater importance given the current concerns about the potential economic uncertainties facing Australia.
Indeed, I’ve written to Prime Minister Morrison on your behalf, emphasising that local councils stand ready to help boost the economy. Across the country we have infrastructure projects that are “shovel ready” and can lift the economic health of our cities, towns and regions, if the Commonwealth provides the money.
Infrastructure project partnerships was one of the themes I explored in my address to the Local Government Association of Tasmania’s annual conference this week in Hobart.
I explained that while the Treasurer mightn’t be discussing the need for an economic stimulus, the Governor of the Reserve Bank was.
Prime Minister Morrison has also said his job now is to get more Australians working again and to lower the unemployment rate.
I told delegates that local governments are extremely well placed to partner with the Australian Government to stimulate the economy at both the grass roots level and the industry level, through escalating activity and spending on maintenance and small to medium civil and construction projects.
We have a nation-wide footprint, so any stimulus package can have a nation-wide impact.
We know that each dollar invested on infrastructure like road upgrades, halls, libraries, sporting facilities and playgrounds has the added benefits of improving road safety or community well-being, as well as reducing local government’s $30b infrastructure backlog.
Completing these projects are important steps towards restoring our economic sustainability and independence.
ALGA has a list of almost 1,000 projects on its Community Infrastructure Ideas Register, including facilities that need replacing, maintenance or upgrading. Most of these are ready to start when additional money becomes available.
We’ll be highlighting the Register to the Australian Government so it can consider projects for stimulus funding. Please check that your council has a project, or projects, on the Register, and if not, let ALGA know.
The more councils from across Australia that feature on the Register, the stronger it makes our case to the federal government.
Finally, we also need more voices from local councils in our Fairer Share campaign to increase the Financial Assistance Grants from the Commonwealth which can activate the potential of our communities.
Please engage your local federal members and senators about how vital the FAGs are to your communities, thank them for past federal grants received, and outline what could be achieved if they were doubled.