Local Government forming the future

A record number of delegates attended the 1999 National General Assembly staged in Canberra from 29 November to 1 December. Over 900 elected members and senior managers, from Councils across all States and the Northern Territory, considered, as we approach the centenary of our Federation, how Local Government can play a key role in forming the future for all Australians.

In his President's Address, Councillor John Campbell said that, as we near the new millennium and 100 years of nationhood, we must ask the question, 'Is Local Government relevant?' "With the world ever shrinking do people still associate locally?" he asked.

In answering his first question, John Campbell said, "Yes, we are relevant and I have no doubt about that. It is the State and Federal Governments that must be less confident about their positions. "We have a future, we are relevant and we can affirm this locally."

At the Annual General Meeting of the Australian Local Government Association immediately following the General Assembly, Councillor Campbell stood down as President following a third term. Noting that the needs and aspirations of communities are constantly changing, he said that people still want good roads and parks, good planning and the like but they also want more.

"They want local economic leadership, they want their built and natural environments preserved and enhanced and they demand a quick response to their needs," Councillor Campbell said. "In addition, they want direct democracy and to have their say. They expect Councils to be using the latest technology and through crime prevention strategies to be creating safer communities."

He said that Local Government must accept the inevitability of globalisation and the challenges and opportunities it creates but above all it must provide leadership. "Councils are the local actors able to provide answers for our communities," he said. "We must build partnerships with the other spheres of government, the private sector, business and communities to achieve this."

He said that the ALGA will continue to lobby for an increase in Financial Assistance Grants but will also be approaching the State Governments, who will be better off after the introduction of GST, to assist with unfunded mandates that have been passed on the Councils over a number of years.

With the future of an effective ALGA confirmed by its recent Corporate Plan, John Campbell advocates that only through united support from Local Government across the nation can a common position be put to the Commonwealth Government for a much needed overhaul of Financial Assistance Grants.