The voice of local government must be heard in the reform processes
The sudden release of a Discussion Paper for the Reform of Federation on June 24 has highlighted the need for all tiers of government and commentators to maintain an open mind on potential reforms to how our Federation operates.
The Discussion Paper appeared without any fanfare after a period of intense speculation about possible funding changes to public education and a round of comments from political leaders ruling out various options.
The Discussion Paper was for the most part silent on local government and this is a concern because the outcomes of the reform process through the Federation White Paper must also address how the needs of communities at the local level can be better met.
The Discussion Paper focused on the three big areas of inter-governmental concern: health, education and housing/homelessness.
There are clearly major reform opportunities in these areas but local government, and the delivery of an adequate level of services and infrastructure to local communities, is also important.
As the President of ALGA, I felt it necessary to remind everyone involved that the Reform of Federation and Taxation White Paper processes are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to look at serious reform aimed at improving the operation of the Federation.
We need a mature conversation about potential reform without ruling out options so that we can achieve the best outcomes to deliver better services to Australians.
There is a need to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of local government in meeting the needs of local communities are matched by access to adequate revenue and this issue needs to be considered as part of the Green Paper.
This is the clear message that came through from delegates at ALGA’s 2015 National General Assembly held in Canberra in mid-June, and it’s a message I will be taking to this month’s COAG Leaders Retreat.