President’s Column – 6 December 2019

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

This week I’d like to update you on my meetings with Ministers in Parliament House, a day that proved how the last sitting week of the year is an intense and busy time.

I had a fruitful discussion with Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, about a range of matters, in particular councils’ many concerns regarding digital display screens on payphones.

5G is a technology that’s rapidly emerging, and I explained that while councils can see its benefits, we want clarity about the implications for councils, and how the networks will be built.

I also updated the Minister about Local Government’s role in culture and the arts, emphasising the importance of a community infrastructure fund to help maintain facilities such as libraries, galleries and local halls. He appreciated our key role and request for partnership funding to replace ageing facilities.

In my conversation with Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt AM, and his office, we touched on issues around a local voice to government and truth-telling – and the proactive role many councils are already playing.

Minister Wyatt mentioned his previous ministerial experience with health issues and we discussed the role of councils in regional communities and their challenges in attracting and retaining general practitioners.

Barnaby Joyce, the Member for New England, updated me about the inquiry he’s chairing into Australia’s Waste Management and Recycling Industries.

I updated him on Local Government’s role in waste and recycling and highlighted the innovative things councils are doing, such as incorporating recovered materials in road base and road seals and waste to energy research.

There’s a great opportunity for local councils to be involved in inquiry by the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources, which Mr Joyce encouraged.

Submissions are due by Friday 31 January 2020, and I encourage your council to make one.

Mr Joyce was also interested in hearing councils’ views on the barriers to recycling and the circular economy.

I also enjoyed meeting Dr Helen Haines, the Independent Member for Indi in northern Victoria, during which she shared her perspectives on regional councils.

I welcomed her support for our Fairer Share campaign to restore the quantum of Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

We’ll continue that campaign in the new year, and have included it in our submission for the 2020-21 Federal Budget.

Please keep ALGA and myself informed about your advocacy to your local federal representative, and how your community’s potential could be unlocked if the FAGs were increased.

I wish you well as you continue your busy workloads in the lead up to Christmas and New Year and wish you the very best for some quality time with family and friends over the break.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President.