President’s comment

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 (LGAQ).

As a civic leader for close to a quarter of a century, and especially one who hails from a major resource community, I’ve witnessed a few boom and bust cycles.

More than half of my council’s time has been focused on providing the physical infrastructure and community facilities for a rapidly growing community and mining sector. But twice we have been left with the sad task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding community spirit after significant economic downturns.

Emerald and the Central Highlands are in some ways representative of large parts of Australia. We are at the whim of market forces and lacking a considered state or even national internal compass to guide population growth across both the decades and economic cycles.

Every Australian community has its issues – high population growth, population decline, ageing population, a growing migrant population; all with their challenges and their opportunities.

In October 2009 the LGAQ Executive announced its fourth ever public inquiry, in this instance into the need for a population policy for Queensland.

LGAQ has held four such inquiries over the past 20 years, all have resulted in significant shifts in government policy and funding programs – some spectacularly so. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed from past inquiries.

The Association’s timing couldn’t have been better as it coincides with Prime Minister Rudd’s call for an Australian population of
35 million by 2050.

The LGAQ’s Population Policy Public Inquiry will run for five months, hold four public inquiries, call for public submissions and produce an interim report in May and a final report in June. The inquiry will cost approximately $250,000.

We have also spurred on State Government Growth Summits, development lobby alternative population forums, even Courier Mail Community fora on the topic. So before one word is written, the inquiry is paying dividends.

Importantly, the LGAQ has been able to engage three outstanding individuals to oversee the inquiry, Professor Peter McDonald, President of the International Union of Scientific Study of Population, and Professor of Demography and Director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at the Australian National University of Canberra; Professor Lyndsay Neilson, a strategic analyst of urban policy and advisor to foreign governments, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund; and Dr Keith Hilless, Chairman ZeroGen Pty Ltd, former Deputy Chancellor QUT, Managing Director of NRG Asia Pacific Pty Ltd, and Chairman of Ergon Energy.

The inquiry is supported by highly experienced Local Government infrastructure and finance expert, Alan Morton.

Very specifically, the inquiry which formally kicked off on
15 February, will:

  • review and analyse the demographic and growth related issues of relevance to the sustainability of population increases, pressures on environmental
    and natural resources, community and industry capacity to pay and develop and live in Queensland
  • identify opportunities for policy initiatives at Federal, State and Local Government level to enhance outcomes for Queensland policy
  • stimulate debate on the need for a Queensland Population Policy within a national context and explore the potential benefits from such a policy.

The LGAQ and my fundamental position is that we should not stand at the back of the queue. Rather, we should assert our legitimate rights to shape policy on an issue fundamental to the future of our communities.