Too many people and places left behind

Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley told delegates that he was pleased to be invited to address this 'grand assembly of the people's deputies'.

"You are the level of government closest to the life of our communities," he said.

"You are the ones that so often have to pick up the pieces when other levels of government cut back essential services affecting the everyday lives of Australians."

He said that with 730 Local Government bodies, employing in excess of 140,000 workers, an annual expenditure of more than $9.7 billion and contributing around 1.6 percent to the nation's GDP, these are just some of the reasons why the Labor Party wants to strengthen the hand of Local Government.

"We want you to have a true seat at the table when government leaders get together to discuss the issues that really matter to Australians," Kim Beazley said.

He said Labor policy boils down to the following four basics.

  • Access to quality education for everyone, not just the wealthy.
  • Rebuilding Medicare and public hospitals &endash; not the American system where the poor and weak are left to fend for themselves.
  • Working for better living standards for everyone, not just the lucky few.
  • Fair treatment for all Australians, whether they live in metropolitan, regional, rural or remote communities.

Kim Beazley said the fact that Local Government, the sector of government that does so much for Australians in their everyday lives, is not mentioned in the Australian Constitution needs to be rectified. Also under a Labor Government, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will be reinvigorated to reflect a true working partnership across the three spheres.

In referring to the recently released 'State of the Regions' report, he said that in the process of change, the Howard Government's policies have left far too many people and places behind.

Kim Beazley said that the Roads to Recovery program is a good start but he believes it has been put together very quickly and there are major concerns about the funding formula.

He added that nowhere in the Roads to Recovery program, or the Prime Minister's speech last week, was there acknowledgement of the need for a long term approach, or of an integrated approach to transport or infrastructure.