What the Federal politicians said
Extracts of addresses to the Assembly.
Senator Ian Macdonald Federal Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government
The Minister said that the failure of the two recent referenda questions highlights the enormous challenge facing Local Government regarding Constitutional Recognition.
"It illustrates just how difficult it is to achieve change via referenda," he said. "You need to plan a long campaign starting with the State and Territory Governments."
Turning to tax reform, he said that the implementation costs for Councils will be offset by other tax savings. Noting that Councils will have to pay GST on some transactions, he said this can then be claimed back as tax credits.
The Senator said $2.5 million has been provided for training Council personnel. This will be delivered through the State Local Government Associations.
He said that those areas where residents and ratepayers will be required to pay GST for Council services will be finalised 'very soon'.
As the key recipients of GST to be collected, the Minister urged Local Government to immediately begin discussions with the State and Territory Governments. This will ensure Councils get a share of this increased tax stream.
Turning to regional development issues, the Senator predicts that the next century will see Australia taking an ever advancing role in the Asia Pacific region.
"We have the standard of living, resources and freedoms to do this," he said. "Local Government has played a major role in Australia's success and will continue to be a strategic partner as we move into the next millennium."
Senator Sue MacKay Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government
Speaking on the theme 'Making Local Government Matter', Senator Mackay said that with Councils touching the lives of all Australians, and as the major providers of services around the country, there is no doubt Local Government does matter.
She said that the Labor Party continues to be committed to Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, but to succeed this will need bipartisan support and have all spheres of government promoting its benefits, that a 'yes' vote means real status for Local Government.
Arguing that Local Government is not a creature of the States, she said retaining the direct financial link between the Commonwealth and Local Government was an important win. The Financial Assistance Grants are an important conduit between the Federal Government and Councils.
With Councils still in the dark about what will be subject to GST, the Senator said this is both unfair on Councils and the public.
She said the notion of 'two nations', raised by Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson regarding rural and urban Australia, and the release of the recent State of the Regions report demands that this Government develop policies that meet the needs of all residents no matter where they live.
"The surplus has been built on the back of reduced services in regional Australia," Senator MacKay said.
Describing relations between the Commonwealth and Local Government as 'not good enough' she said a Labor Government is committed to establishing a formal relationship that brings security to Local Government.
"It is time to review what Local Government does, as well as providing a realistic and stable level of funding," she said.
Senator Lyn Allison Democrats Spokesperson for Local Government
Speaking on the art of communication and influencing, Senator Allison said that Councils are more than aware that consultation and participatory democracy are not easy. She said empowering the wise and not just the loud is a vital skill.
In dealing with politicians, she said it is vital to listen to what they have been saying or 'know your enemy'. The internet is a great tool here.
"Be aware of what you would like politicians to do and what they are actually able to do," the Senator said. "The Minister may not always be the way to go. Currently in the Senate the three political parties have quite a deal of power."
Calling for an increase in cooperation, she welcomed the end of forced competition in the form of CCT in Victoria.
"With competition not everyone can be a winner, so cooperative approaches and outcomes are vital," Lyn Allison said.