Welcome from the new Minister

I would like to welcome readers to this, the second issue of A National Perspective, and my first as the new Federal Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government. As member for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, the role of Local Government and the development of regional and rural Australia is very important to me. I share with Local Government an interest in making Australia a better place in which to live and do business, and I am very pleased to have been given the opportunity to work towards achieving this goal.

I place great store in delivering on the Government's commitment to regional Australia, and I consider the focus to be on maximising the competitive advantage of our regions, while acknowledging that from time to time there may be a need to alleviate the specific negative impacts of particular regions. Combining the Regional Development and Local Government portfolios at the Federal level means there will now be a strengthened emphasis on co-ordination of regional development and Local Government policies.

Local Government is vital to both businesses and individuals and I, like my predecessor, will be encouraging councils in their efforts to improve the delivery of services and to meet the demands placed on them, including fostering their local communities.

As most of you are now aware, the Local Government Development Program (LGDP) provides funding, primarily to councils and groups of councils, to undertake activities that develop Local Government and advance the Government's priorities. The range of projects highlighted here show how the LGDP is working to develop Local Government's contribution to the social, cultural and economic well being of the community.

It has been shown that structural reform can deliver significant economic gains to both the council and the ratepayer. This newsletter provides information on what the Commonwealth is doing to foster structural reform across Australia, from council-led mergers in South Australia to amalgamations in Tasmania.

The Commonwealth also remains committed to benchmarking in Local Government, and it is good to see so many councils are progressing down this path. Some outcomes from the successful Performance Indicator and Benchmarking Seminar, held recently in the Northern Territory, are highlighted here, as well as information on other benchmarking projects funded under the LGDP.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the article on Australia's Model Code for Residential Development, better known as AMCORD. A Certificate of Merit awarded by the Royal Australian Planning Institute is further evidence of the success AMCORD has enjoyed over the years as a resource document for Local Government, industry and academia.

I look forward to meeting with representatives of Local Government in the near future &emdash; to learn more about the many ways Local Government is working to improve the services to its communities, and to continue to build on the partnership between our levels of government.

Alex Somlyay