In each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association president. The following is from Councillor Paul Bell, President of the Local Government Association of Queensland.
Now that the dust has settled on the recent Queensland State election it’s time to take stock of what’s happened and what’s in store for our councils.
The Bligh Government was returned with a much reduced majority. In the end, less than 4,000 votes in eight seats determined the outcome of the election. It was much closer than the ‘arm chair’ TV experts said on the night, but not as close as the pundits predicted.
Importantly, a hung Parliament was avoided and Anna Bligh has a comfortable working majority; albeit with a far more finely balanced Parliament.
The Queensland Government has seen its biggest shake up in 11 years. Half of the Ministry was replaced or retired and the number of Departments slashed from 23 to 13. There is no longer a Department of Local Government, it is now a division within the ‘super’ Department of Planning and Infrastructure, a very good strategic fit for us.
There is however a Minister for Local Government, in the person of Desley Boyle – a former Minister for our sector some three years ago, and a former Councillor on Cairns City Council.
In the few weeks since the State election, I have personally caught up with half a dozen of the Ministers, especially those in key portfolios, such as Local Government, Planning, Infrastructure, Industrial Relations and Climate Change.
My simple message was treat us properly and with the respect Local Government deserves and we will be true partners in government. It’s early days but there seems to be a new willingness to engage with the LGAQ and councils.
It is clear from those discussions that the time is now right to forge a new partnership with the State Government putting the ructions of the last few years behind us.
There will be a brand new Local Government Act passed into law in April/May with a significantly amended Planning Act hot on its heels.
There will be no lessening of the reform agenda for Queensland councils over the balance of our current four year term.
I am very pleased to be able to report to you that through the vehicle of its 10 Point State Election Policy Plan the LGAQ was able to secure fundamental pledges from the Bligh Government for their next term of government. These include maintaining the full quantum of their existing capital grants and subsidies scheme; not introducing a landfill levy; not limiting council shared services operations; and lastly preserving the status quo of elected members making development assessment decisions.
These outcomes were only made possible by constant advocacy and vigilance by the LGAQ, with the final commitments and assurances only being secured in the last week of the campaign.
I’m proud to say that the LGAQ got good traction on its issues and attracted plenty of media attention during the election campaign. We broke new ground in the alternative media with entries in You Tube, Google (Video) Flicker and Twitter – with thousands of hits on our ‘unique’ productions.
Rest assured the LGAQ Executive and I will now fully expect the Bligh State Government to deliver on their written promises to us secured in the last days of the election campaign. A commitment is a commitment and I will do my level best to ensure they are delivered.