Each edition we feature the views of a State Local Government Association President. The following is from Councillor Anthony Bisdee, Acting President Local Government Association of Tasmania.
One can only best describe the political activity here in Tasmania during the past months as frenetic. Local Government elections based on new boundaries with a reduction of Councils from 29 to 14 were abandoned after a Supreme Court challenge was successful in declaring the elections, based on the new boundaries, contravened the Tasmanian Local Government Act.
We had a State Government election at the end of August with the Liberal minority Government being defeated and the Labor Party sweeping into office. To further add to the political activity, the Prime Minister called a Federal election for October. All in all, a most interesting time politically speaking.
The recent Tasmanian State election resulted in a comfortable majority in the House of Assembly for the new Labor Government. I believe any Government that can govern with a majority has much greater opportunities to assert its policies without being constrained by compromising politics.
The Local Government Association member Councils look forward to working with the new State Government especially where Local Government is able to play a greater role in providing advice and support in areas such as public policy and intergovernmental relations. One of the major issues facing Local Government nationally, is the impact of a GST on Councils should the Coalition regain government at the forthcoming Federal election.
Local Government's peak body, ALGA, has been largely successful in lobbying the Coalition in achieving recognition of GST free status for Council rates, charges and fees which, if applied, would have constituted a 'tax on a tax'. However, a major issue contained in the tax reform package is the proposed transfer of responsibility for Local Government Financial Assistance Grants to the States and Territories.
This has the potential to further reduce funding to Local Government as there may be no requirement, legislative or otherwise, for States and Territories to maintain Local Government grants at their present level, or indeed, at any level.
As we are all well aware, States and Territories vary considerably as to their financial well being and there will always be the potential under the proposed arrangements for States and Territories to fund Local Government disproportionately, with the less financial States being more inclined to reduce Local Government grants to fund their own programs.
The ALGA Executive will be meeting in Adelaide on 18-19 September and I firmly believe the Executive will adopt a strategy to undertake a concentrated campaign to lobby the Coalition for a fixed share of the GST, estimated at 6%, to be guaranteed through Local Government Financial Assistance Grants.
In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge that on August 27 last, the past President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Sue Smith MLC, announced her retirement from Local Government to concentrate on her parliamentary duties. Sue Smith has made an outstanding contribution to Local Government, not only here in Tasmania, but also at the National level as a member of the ALGA Executive.
We are all deeply indebted to her for the most dynamic way in which she presided over the many issues which confronted Local Government during her time as Mayor and President and we wish her every success for the future.