Editorial: Positive signs for Federal/Local Government relationship

As part of its economic stimulus package, in just over four months, the Federal Government has pledged $800 million for Local Government through its Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Announcements by the Government of funding approval for various councils to proceed with community infrastructure projects have now commenced. Regular funding announcements are expected in coming weeks.

In excess of 3,600 projects have been submitted by councils following the first round of funding for $300 million announced last November. The Rudd Government is eager to provide a boost to local economies through these urgently required infrastructure projects that have been identified by councils.

The Federal Government aims to support local businesses and jobs, as well as improve quality of life in local communities.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese has described this as the single largest investment in local infrastructure in the nation’s history. He also believes that without this funding many of these community projects would have remained in the ‘too hard basket’.

There is no doubt the Rudd Government sees Local Government as a key partner in its endeavours to provide additional impetus for local economies. At the same time, this is helping councils and communities as they struggle to deal with a growing backlog in infrastructure maintenance, as well as delivering new projects.

Following the success of its first Mayors and Shire Presidents summit last November, the Rudd Government has scheduled its second summit to take place just prior to the Australian Local Government Association’s National General Assembly in Canberra in June.

ALGA President, Councillor Geoff Lake, said that the fact the Government has seen fit to run its summit to coincide with the National General Assembly is further evidence of strengthening its partnership with Local Government.

Councillor Lake said with the three key themes for this year’s General Assembly being infrastructure, climate change and financing, it is vital that councils large and small feed their views into this vital policy shaping forum.

He is right when he says, “The Australian Government is now looking to Local Government to play its role as a partner in tackling the big issues facing the nation, and the National General Assembly is the opportunity to make sure your council’s views feed directly into consideration of the national priorities facing Local Government.”

Local Government is probably in its best position yet to participate in national policy setting and deliver further positive outcomes for the communities it serves.