Election 2010 – what’s on offer for councils and communities

Article image - Election 2010 – what’s on offer for councils and communities Head to head: Minister for Local Government Anthony Albanese (left) and Shadow Minister Warren Truss release their election campaigns.

With the 2010 Federal election taking place on 21 August, both the Minister for Local Government, Anthony Albanese, and Shadow Minister, Warren Truss, were approached by FOCUS on 30 July for a statement on their respective Party’s policies relevant to councils and local communities. We present their policy positions provided on 6 August. As the campaign had two more weeks to run, further policy announcements are expected.

 

LABOR – Statement from Anthony Albanese, Minister for Local Government

The Federal Labor Government has joined with Local Government to forge a strong new partnership. The Australian Council of Local Government is the first time that a direct relationship has been established between Federal and Local Governments.

Constitutional recognition

Our respect for Local Government begins with our longstanding support for its recognition within the Constitution. In fact, Labor has taken the question to a referendum twice – both times, the Coalition advocated a ‘No’ vote. Earlier this year, we committed to providing $250,000 to the Australian Local Government Association to run community consultations on the issue.

Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program

The Gillard Labor Government has provided record funding to Local Governments for community infrastructure – more than $1.1 billion to support 5,000 small and large scale projects in every Local Government area since November 2008. The Coalition voted against this program in the Parliament.

Transport infrastructure

The Government is investing a record $37 billion into nation building transport infrastructure – over $20 billion of this funding is in regional and rural Australia. We have doubled the roads budget compared with the former Coalition government and increased the rail budget by more than ten times.

We are also providing $1.75 billion through the Roads to Recovery program – $250 million more than the former Coalition government. We are delivering $500 million to address local road black spots, including a $150 million boost through the Economic Stimulus Plan, which the Coalition voted against.

Financial Assistance Grants

The Gillard Labor Government is providing over $2 billion this year in untied Financial Assistance Grants to support core local government activities. It was a Labor Government that introduced these grants in 1974 and we have continued to support them ever since.

National Broadband Network

The Government’s National Broadband Network has the potential to transform how Local Governments serve communities, including environmental and waste, health and medical services, intelligent transport systems, and library and learning tools. In contrast, the Coalition will scrap the National Broadband Network altogether.

Supporting our regional and capital cities

Under Federal Labor’s stewardship, the Commonwealth is once again engaged in our regional and capital cities. The Gillard Labor Government will deliver a $200 million Building Better Regional Cities program though Local Government to provide local infrastructure to boost housing in regional cities and take pressure off capital cities.

This builds on our record investments in major infrastructure through the Nation Building Program and longer term reform through the Major Cities Unit and the Council of Australian Governments.

The suite of programs we are delivering with local government is extensive – the Local Government Reform Fund, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, Regional Development Australia, to name a few more.

The Gillard Labor Government has a strong track record and an unquestioned commitment when it comes to Local Government and we will continue to build our partnership to support
local communities.

COALITION – Statement from Warren Truss, Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Local Government

The Coalition is a great friend of Local Government. The Liberal and National Parties believe councils are best placed to deliver essential infrastructure to our communities and should receive appropriate direct funding from the Commonwealth Government.

We also believe the vital role of Local Government should be recognised in our Constitution. We have a plan to ensure there is more decision making at the local level and more funds paid direct to local communities, cutting out wasteful State bureaucracies.

One of the most successful programs initiated by the previous Coalition Government was the Roads to Recovery Program. This program channelled funds directly to Local Governments to improve local road infrastructure – importantly each Local Government authority had control over where and how it allocated funding. Local Governments are best placed to identify local priorities.

The Coalition will continue this highly successful program if elected. We will also create a $600 million program to rebuild and repair thousands of ageing and decaying bridges around Australia in partnership with Local Government. Both State and Local Governments will match funding on a dollar for dollar and case by case basis.

Some Local Governments in Australia have up to 100 bridges or more needing repair. Some estimates say that these bridges will cost an average of about $700,000 each to repair
or replace.

The Coalition will broaden the Better Regions Program to ensure better participation of Local Government in the decision making process. Funds will be directed to larger infrastructure, community infrastructure and servicing projects, grants for initiatives that increase social opportunities and community participation and small grants to help Local Government and not for profit organisations with minor community projects.

The Coalition will also help Local Government tackle local crime through our Community Crime Prevention Program, ($50 million). This program will assist Local Governments combat low level crime such as graffiti and vandalism. This may include increased security patrols, graffiti cleaning squads, or other initiatives to make streets and neighbourhoods safer.

We will also support Local Government and our Regions through:

  • ensuring local management of our hospitals
  • providing incentives to health workers to attract them to regional towns
  • delivery of better, faster more affordable broadband
  • upgrading rail lines to take pressure off our roads
  • more resources for regional air services
  • assistance with flood and fire mitigation
  • assistance for small business and tourism
  • programs to make it easier and more attractive for seniors to work beyond retirement age therefore helping ease local skills shortages.

The Coalition will not introduce an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). An ETS will severely impact on the financial bottom line for many of our Local Governments and result in the loss of thousands of jobs across Australia. The Coalition will not impose such a punitive tax on Local Government. Labor will introduce an ETS and they will have the Greens dictating the terms on how to implement it.

The Coalition will instead take direct action on protecting our environment and implementing carbon reduction schemes.

The choice this election is clear  – a Coalition Government which supports Local Government through direct funding and encourages decision making at a local level or a Labor-Greens Government which will inflict significant taxes and costs on already stretched Local Government budgets.