Community democracy

"This Assembly celebrates the 50th anniversary of the national peak body of Local Government," said Councillor John Campbell, President ALGA. "A special greeting to all of you who have contributed to the building of this national voice."

In his President's Address, John Campbell also welcomed numerous international visitors, acknowledging the importance of community to community relationships in the global economy. Moving into the next millennium, he said that challenges abound.

"We have grounds for optimism, but it must be tempered by the reality of the new global economy and the challenges facing communities within this new and difficult framework," he said.

Pointing to the fact that the High Court's historic Income Tax decision coincided with the establishment of ALGA in 1947, he said that it is interesting Tax reform is again a key issue on the national agenda.

"Local Government does not oppose tax reform, but there are threats," John Campbell said. "The first is that a GST might be imposed on rates. ALGA's economic advisors suggest this could cost ratepayers and Councils as much as $500 million per year.

"There is no virtue in tax cuts which lead to the weakening or destruction of our communities. It is up to you to make sure your local Members of Parliament fully understand that, as the sphere of government closest to the people, we know best about the impact on the community of tax changes."

Similar to 100 years ago when many Councils were actively involved in the debate leading up to nationhood, he said that, as endorsed by the Governor General, Local Government is involved in the current debate on Constitutional change.

"The citizen's right to a democratically elected Local Government should be unequivocally entrenched in the Constitution," Councillor Campbell said. "If a Government has the power to raise revenue and make regulations, it must be democratically accountable to the people and not another sphere of government."

Pointing to the 1997 Declaration on the Role of Australian Local Government, endorsed during the Assembly, he said this is not merely a piece of empty symbolism.

"We must build our role as the core of local communities," he said. "Australia's 730 Councils must each become advocates and educators of our system of Local Government. We must adopt the mantle of community democracy and community leadership, to resist those concerned only with cost cutting.

"Fifty years ago an enduring alliance was formed. In 50 years hence, leaders of Local Government will be celebrating 100 years of ALGA. They will reflect on how much the health of their community and environment can be attributed to our commitment to the values of Local Government in the lead up to the new millennium."