Election 2007 in full swing - In the rough and tumble of it all how will Councils and communities fare?

Article image - Election 2007 in full swing - In the rough and tumble of it all how will Councils and communities fare?

2007 Federal Election has so far lived up to most predictions. FOCUS approached the Minister for Local Government, Jim Lloyd, and Shadow Minister Kate Lundy to gauge what the two major parties are offering Local Government. At the time of going to press neither party had released its Local Government policy so the following covers what each was prepared to disclose.

From the Minister’s office the key policy was the announcement on 30 October by Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile of the Coalition’s 2020 plan for roads. If re-elected the Coalition has pledged a new $300 million program for development roads as well as a boost for existing roads programs.

“It includes a new Development Roads program of $300 million over six years to improve critically important roads in regional Australia and an extra $550 million over six years for the existing Strategic Regional program,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“We will invest $50 million per year, or $300 million over six years, in the new Development Roads program to upgrade some of these key roads on a partnership basis with Local, State and Territory Governments.

“Our first project will be a $20 million commitment to the Capricorn Highway between Rockhampton and Emerald, a key road for the coal and beef industries.”

Mark Vaile said in addition to the new Development Roads program a re-elected Coalition will inject a further $550 million to the Strategic Regional program, taking it to $850 million over six years; continue the highly successful Roads to Recovery program, increasing funding each year to $350 million from 2009 to 2010; increase the Black Spots program from $45 million to $60 million per year from 2009–10; continue to provide Untied Local Road Grants directly to local Councils for use on their road networks; and provide direct project specific funding to key state and local roads that are not on the AusLink National Network.

Speaking recently at a policy forum on Local Government, Shadow Minister for Local Government, Senator Kate Lundy, said that Federal Labor’s approach to Local Government has the following five key elements:

  • an established timeframe for Constitutional recognition
  • a Council of Australian Local Governments (a forum that will include representatives from all three spheres of government)
  • fiscal reform (with the above Council providing advice on the underlying financial arrangements for Local Government)
  • infrastructure renewal, through a new statutory body – Infrastructure Australia – to be set up in the first 100 days of the election of a Rudd Labor Government, and Labor’s Major Cities program
  • a collaborative approach to the delivery of services that would extend the concept of cooperative federalism to Local Government, as seen in the $2 billion Health and Hospitals Reform Plan, in which a Rudd Labor Government will invest $220 million to establish GP Super Clinics, in consultation with local communities.

“Local Councils are the front line in providing services for Australian communities,” Senator Lundy said.

“And increasingly, Local Government has been tackling issues such as climate change, environmental management, housing affordability, health, and the liveability of our cities. These are important national issues. They are too big and too complex for any one sphere of government to be left to tackle them alone.

“Complex challenges like climate change, housing affordability and health care require partnerships across all three spheres of government and the non government sector.”

She said that Labor is committed to localism and committed to working with Local Government to deliver services that communities need.

“This means a real relationship, collaboration between the three spheres of government and forward thinking,” the Senator said.

Senator Lundy’s office also pointed to a number of initiatives Labor has announced during the campaign that will assist Local Government and their communities.

These include a $4.7 billion investment in a National Broadband Network; a $500 million housing affordability package; a $250 million initiative to help save water by improving the water reticulation systems in our cities; a $200 million investment in childcare facilities that will build 260 new childcare centres on primary school grounds and other community land; and the $1 billion National Urban Water and Desalination Plan to help secure the water supplies of Australia’s major cities.