MAV sets new direction

"After setting a goal for change 12 months ago, we are definitely heading in the right direction," said Councillor Brad Matheson, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Speaking at the Association's recent Annual Conference, he said that, in response to member Councils' needs, a far greater emphasis is now being given to policy and advocacy.

"Through our networking and regular forums we are strengthening communication links across the sector to successfully lobby the other spheres of Government," he said. "We are developing a rapport with key decision makers ensuring we are on the inside not the outside, and that we are proactive not reactive."

He said that the major challenge facing Local Government, both in Victoria and across the nation, is the proposed changes to the tax system. In officially opening the Conference, Deputy Premier, Pat McNamara, said that Victorian Local Government is to be congratulated on the way it has managed radical change 'preparing us for the next millennium'.

Opposition Leader, John Brumby, said that in coordinating help for vulnerable citizens in the recent gas crisis, floods and drought, Local Government has proved itself one of the most effective and important spheres of public administration.

"With the help of Local Government, the community was able to weather these storms together," he said.

On the recent State Government's sacking of Nillumbik Council and Docklands interference, he said that the Minister and Premier have shown a total disregard for local democracy.

"Suspension of Nillumbik is just another case of the Kennett Government silencing its critics," he said. "I think the people of Victoria want their elected Councillors to fight back against this undemocratic interference."

He added that Local Government must show a united front to prevent being picked off one by one.

"Governments that are leading the way today in creating the most successful cohesive societies are those that are using the full potential of Local Government," John Brumby said. "I believe that Victoria can no longer afford to waste the potential offered by Local Government."