People, places and partnerships
In his address, President of the Australian Local Government Association, Councillor John Campbell said that the National Assembly's theme, 'People, Places and Partnerships', is very appropriate as Local Government prepares for the next millennium.
"1998 has been a very eventful year for ALGA," he said. "It has been a year where ALGA has engaged in a serious and sustained effort to raise the profile of Local Government nationally.
"It has upped its lobbying activities and sought to participate more actively in the public policy process."
John Campbell added that the remainder of 1998 and 1999 will be critical for ALGA as tax reform legislation is introduced into Parliament.
"Local Government will have to work very hard to ensure that the final outcome is fair to Local Government and fair to local communities," he said. "Tax reform has put the relationship between Local Government, the Federal Government and the States back in the spotlight.
"The Federal Government's proposal to pass the responsibility for Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) to the States represents a huge threat to the viability and sustainability of Local Government."
He said that, although the Federal Government is promising to require of the States that FAGs be indexed to preserve real value per person, what guarantees are there that this arrangement will continue?
Shortly after the General Assembly, the Prime Minister and Premiers met in Canberra to specifically discuss these proposed changes to intergovernmental financial relations. John Campbell said that ALGA's request to send a representative was not answered, despite the fact that the future of Local Government funding is on the line.
Pointing out that although the passage of the Government's tax package in its current form is far from assured, he said that ALGA will maintain its contact with all players to ensure Local Government's concerns form part of the equation.
John Campbell called on Councils to retain their focus on the issues and commit resources to a continuing campaign. He stressed that personal contact with their local Federal MP was vital.
"By working together nationally as ALGA, State Associations and constituent Councils, we can achieve success," he said. "Only through this partnership can we achieve the results our communities so desperately need."