What the politicians said
A snapshop of comments made by Federal Politicians during the Assembly.
Acting Prime Minister, Tim Fischer
Tim Fischer told delegates the ALGA provides a focus for the most decentralised form of government, in partnership with the States and Federal Government.
He said in difficult circumstances, the Commonwealth has continued to recognise Local Government needs. However, he defended the lack of further funding for Local Government saying that the Government came to office with a determination to reduce debt and, by locking in a budget surplus, we are well placed to weather economic storms such as those ravaging Asia.
He received rousing affirmation when he declared that rate pegging should not be tolerated by any government in this land. Noting that Local Government has made inroads to increasing its efficiency and effectiveness, Tim Fischer emphasised his respect for these achievements.
"Whatever the future holds for State Governments, I assure you there will be a future for Local Government," he concluded.
Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley
Addressing delegates via video, Kim Beazley acknowledged that Local Government is the most popular element of Government. He announced a new Labor platform giving greater emphasis to regions, including plans to boost industry, education and development opportunities. In addition, he declared a need to have Local Government properly recognised in the Constitution.
"Services, are best delivered with a strong local component," Kim Beazley said. In summing up, he acknowledged the debt to Local Government owed by the Australian people.
Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill
The Minister told delegates he recognises the importance and the vital role of Local Government in finding answers to national environmental issues.
During his address, Senator Hill launched the Australian Cities for Climate Protection program. This follows a pilot program involving some 30 Councils. The new program aims to include 300 Councils, providing funding totalling $13 million to be administered by new Commonwealth Greenhouse Office.
"The aim is to assist hundreds of local authorities to identify emissions from their own operations and their communities - and then to develop action plans to reduce these emissions," Senator Hill said.
Minister for Transport and Regional Development, Mark Vaile
Concentrating on issues of strategic planning for transport infrastructure, the Minister told delegates that Local Government needs to take a regional perspective in identifying the best areas for investment. Referring to an inquiry conducted by the Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform into road funding, he said that an overwhelming majority of submissions saw a clear role for the Commonwealth in planning the National Highway system and the Roads of National Importance program.
Noting that most submissions from Local Government referred to insufficient funding, he argued that the Federal Government is uncertain of its return on such outlays. He said the Commonwealth gets little acknowledgment of its role in road funding and is uncertain of the extent to which Commonwealth funding merely displaces Local Government funds.
Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Alex Somlyay
Newly appointed Minister for Local Government, Alex Somlyay, said he was pleased to have the opportunity to met Local Government representatives from across the country. The Minister added that Local Government has a key role to play in regional development, and in improving services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.
"Because diversity is a feature of Local Government in Australia, its capacity to meet challenges varies," the Minister said. "The diverse nature of Local Government, particularly the variable revenue raising capacity of Councils, underpins the Commonwealth's financial support of Local Government."
He urged Local Government to continue to improve its performance and accountability and reduce red tape. The Minister emphasised the fact that some 40 per cent of Councils are actively involved in benchmarking and 80 percent of the balance are expected to follow suit in the near future.
Shadow Minister for Local Government, Belinda Neal
"Historically, Local Government has been underestimated in its capacity to manage the immediate concerns of its constituents," Belinda Neal said. "While the Australian electorate is cynical about government in general, the local sphere needs to maintain the confidence of people."
"It also needs to protect itself from marauding State and Territory Governments."
Overall she said she would like to see Local Government gain proper recognition, adequate public infrastructure funding and Financial Assistance Grants restored to former levels. She concluded Local Government has a great future, and needs to work closely together to achieve its common objectives.
Democrats Spokesperson for Local Government, Lyn Allison
"National Competition Policy is still ruining much of what we once valued in a cooperative society," Senator Allison said. "Furthermore, other than in Queensland and Western Australia, Local Government has missed out on its share of NCP funding."
She referred to the potential health risks of electro magnetic radiation now emanating from an increasing number of sources. Among her suggestions is a plan to have all cabling undergrounded over a 20 year period with the bulk of the cost being borne by the carrier.
"The other levels of government cannot be trusted to keep an idea going beyond the next election," she said. "Local Government has the local processes and continuity that comes from a closer connection to constituents."