Councils can breath again following the Australian Government’s budget announcement to restore indexation to Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) from 1 July 2017 as promised following a tough three-year freeze.
The freeze on indexation cost local communities more than $600 million worth of services and infrastructure over the three years, according to the Government’s own estimates, with the biggest impact felt by councils in regional and remote Australia.
Mayor Damien Ryan, Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), welcomed the Government’s decision to restore the indexation and said councils could now begin to pick up the pieces.
“Financial Assistance Grants are an important untied payment that councils invest in providing better infrastructure and better services for our local communities.
“By restoring indexation to this important payment, the Government is honouring its commitment to communities to ensure that, as far as possible, every citizen regardless of where they live can have equitable access to municipal services.
“However, there is still a long road ahead before councils recover from the freeze as it permanently reduced the base level of the Financial Assistance Grants payments.”
ALGA also welcomed the Government’s decision to provide $40 million over two years in supplementary road funding for South Australia.
“We’re pleased that the Government heard our calls, and the calls of the Local Government Association of South Australia, for fairer supplementary road funding for South Australia which was pulled in 2014-15,” Mayor Ryan said.
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Eleven regional Victorian cities and towns are jointly campaigning to host the Commonwealth Games in 2030. This is brilliant and audacious.
City of Greater Shepparton Mayor, Dinny Adem, explained that a staffer within council conceived the idea with CatchyMMM, and that a taskforce is now lobbying for a feasibility study. Taskforce member Mitch Catlin (CatchyMMM) says it has similarities to England’s proposal to hold the 2022 Commonwealth Games across multiple cities to spread the cost and to utilise existing sports infrastructure.
The current thinking is that the Regional Victoria proposal would spread the sports around Shepparton, Geelong, Wodonga, Bendigo, Ballarat, Warrnambool, Traralgon, Mildura and so on. The rationale is that there are few places that have the sports infrastructure required, so why not pursue an alliance strategy. Indeed Mayor Adem notes that the decision to strip Durban of the 2022 Commonwealth Games due to financial problems was proof of the need to take pressure off individual cities and embrace a decentralised model to host the games.
The proponents say it will require significant federal and state funding, but I would caution them on this. The reason is that the sports facilities should reflect the ongoing requirements of the communities, and the federal and state governments will be acutely aware of avoiding a suite of sports venues lying dormant once the Games have finished.
A likely stumbling block could be the financial pressure for Melbourne to be location i.e. to deliver the bigger crowds and revenue streams to cover expenses. However the regional Victoria bid would presumably have Geelong (Skilled Stadium) and Ballarat (Eureka Stadium currently undergoing a major upgrade) playing a role – perhaps the opening and closing ceremonies? And as for the sports events themselves, fans and even the non-sporty should embrace the novelty of catching trains to regional venues and soaking up the scenery, food, wine and community energy. This would be a great point of difference.
A further point of difference might be to invite other Commonwealth nations to get involved. To explain, some nations will never host the Games because of cost, lack of venues or security reasons. But why couldn’t sports officials from those nations partner on the management of some of the events and thus take home valuable experience and contacts? For example, Nigeria and Ghana have a huge tradition in boxing, basketball, football and athletics. Similarly Pakistan has a strong tradition in hockey, badminton, etc. while Caribbean nations are obviously world-class in athletics. Country folk could fuss over these overseas sports officials and perhaps billet them with local residents to reduce costs and build camaraderie. Federal and state governments would surely be attracted to this.
Shepparton and its alliance partners should be commended for their forward thinking. A Commonwealth Games based around regional Victoria would deliver a more inclusive, community-based approach. Brilliant.
Promoting regional communities
While on the subject of Shepparton, its ‘Great Things Happen Here’ promotional campaign is well underway. These are 2-3 minute info-commercials hosted by Charles Wooley, the long-time 60 Minutes presenter. Wooley has always pushed his Tassie upbringing, but hey Australia’s a big oyster, and Wooley has credibility and professionalism! These info-commercials are actually very interesting because they focus on real issues with real companies e.g. SPC, Tatura Milk, Furphy Engineering, Tallis Wine, Pactum Dairy.
The campaign has focused on Melbourne and regional Victorian viewers to date, and it has reportedly given the local community a shot in the arm too.
The exercise was funded by the City of Greater Shepparton and mostly delivered by Alchemy Media, a local company. No need for state or federal grants. I figure that Charles Wooley is now inextricably linked to Shepparton, but could other communities follow suit? Warrnambool’s engagement of home-grown comedians Dave Hughes and Tom Ballard would be a hoot. Northern Rivers’ hiring of Chris Hemsworth would generate strong interest. And Fleurieu Peninsular, a vastly underrated region, could engage Seven Network journalist Sarah Cumming, who hails from Port Elliot.
In the face of major electoral damage, Turnbull’s threat of export controls on gas is smart, but it shouldn’t have come to this. The Nationals (Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash) have over-egged the pudding by requesting ministers to ‘actively justify’ why certain of their entities or functions should not be in regional areas. This is not the answer, and the Mandarins will fob it off. The immunity of the Defence Department to budget cuts was again highlighted last month with $2 billion for a Short Range Ground Based Air Defence system for deployed personnel. (Scarcely a query, and the Budget deficit mounts...) Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has growing status as a Bronwyn Bishop doppelganger. Minister for Cities, Angus Taylor is doing well, keeping his head down. Attorney-General George Brandis may be heading to London as
Rod Brown is a Canberra-based consultant and lobbyist specialising in industry/regional development, investment attraction and clusters, and accessing federal grants. He also runs the Cockatoo Network.
Phone: (02) 6231 7261 or 0412 922 559
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Blog: investmentinnovation.wordpress.com (750+articles)