Message from the Minister

I am delighted to feature in this issue of National Perspective, the winners and commendations from the 2000 National Awards for Innovation in Local Government. A record 386 entries were received this year and the calibre of projects reflected the tremendous work being done across Australia to improve service delivery to local communities.

I would like to particularly congratulate Whittlesea City Council on winning the National Award and Inverell Shire Council on winning the National Rural Award.

Through the Awards, the Federal Government continues to identify, reward and promote leading practice in Local Government. This year there was a large increase in entries from rural and regional Australia.

The Awards also offer the opportunity for other councils to share and learn from winning initiatives and help showcase Local Government innovation to the community, industry groups, and all spheres of government. All entries are listed in the Guide to Leading Practice in Local Government, which will be sent to all councils following the announcement of the National winners at the ALGA National General Assembly.

At the Awards I will also be launching the revised publication Commonwealth Assistance for Local Projects. Councils will receive their copy shortly to use as an up-to-date guide on Commonwealth funding for community projects.

I was proud to host a forum with a northern theme in Katherine, Northern Territory from 17-20 October. The Northern Australia Forum brought over 200 people from the ten regions across northern Australia to determine how best to promote the sustainable development of the North.

Outcomes announced at the meeting include some projects that will promote northern investment opportunities to key decision-makers across Australia and support for the establishment of three additional TradeStart offices in northern Australia. I will be delivering a comprehensive response to the Forum early in the New Year.

As I told the Forum, the call for increased local road assistance has been heard. My regional colleagues and I have pressed the case strongly on behalf of communities to ensure that local authorities are assisted with their growing local road burden. Recently I participated in the announcement of anadditional $1.2 bn over four years to be paid direct to Councils which represents a 75% increase in current Federal Government grants for local roads. I have also called on the States to increase their assistance to Councils.

Guidelines for the Federal Government's Regional Solutions Programme have been announced and applications have been invited from eligible organisations and Local Government bodies in the first round of the four-year $90 million programme.

As this is the last edition in an eventful year for Local Government I take the opportunity of wishing you success in the challenging year ahead.

I also wish you and your communities a happy and safe New Year.