Partnerships the way ahead

The New South Wales Local Government Association staged its Annual Conference at Coffs Harbour from 17-20 October. Attracting more than 600 delegates from across the State, speakers included the Premier, Bob Carr and Opposition Leader, Peter Collins.

With a State Election due in five months, Bob Carr and Peter Collins both emphasised the importance of a working partnership between State and Local Government.

"There are a number of areas where we can work and will work in the future," Bob Carr said. "We are prepared to cut red tape anywhere where job creation can result for New South Wales. We will continue to work with Local Government to fine tune planning processes to facilitate investment."

Peter Collins said that if a Coalition Government is elected an 'autocratic policy of forcing amalgamations' will not be pursued. However, he warned this is not a sign for Local Government to 'put its feet up'.

"To the contrary, Local Government must be concerned about greater efficiency and effectiveness," he said.

In taking questions from the floor, Peter Collins did not rule out that Compulsory Competitive Tendering would be introduced by a Coalition Government. In his Presidential Address, Councillor Peter Woods said that the Howard Government's tax reform package proposes to turn Local Government, along with thousands of other organisations, into tax collectors for the Federal Government.

"Councils will also lose out badly if Financial Assistance Grants are transferred to the States," he said. "Wherever this has occurred, State Treasuries have creamed off resources before they arrive locally.

"The GST is a bit like a rabbit, a noxious pest that this country has unwittingly imported from overseas in the name of improving the local economy.

"There are many more, much better things that we can bring from overseas."

Peter Woods warned about privatisation being seen as the panacea for our social and economic future.

"Privatisation, downsizing, structural rationalisation - these are all catchcries of those who seek short term gains but possess little in the way of vision," he said. "While a politician thinks of the next election, a statesperson thinks of the next generation. Don't we need a few more statespersons?"