President’s comment – Time to reflect

Article image - President’s comment – Time to reflect

Post the 2019 Federal Election, it’s time to reflect on what was achieved for local government, and what challenges remain.

In the lead up to the election the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) launched our election campaign, All Politics Is Local. 

Our top 12 requests included increased federal funding, roads and freight routes, and helping local governments respond to environmental, technological and housing challenges.

The primary initiative – restoring the quantum of Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue from 0.55 percent today – remains unanswered. 

As neither the returned Morrison government nor the Labor opposition promised to restore it, it continues as ALGA’s key priority for the 46th Parliament. 

We also sought $200 million annually over five years to improve key freight routes and remove bottlenecks, an increase in Roads to Recovery funding of $800 million per year, and for the Bridges Renewal Program to be made permanent. 

The Coalition’s announced an extra $25 million per year for a heavy vehicle safety and productivity program, some of which may go to local councils. There’s also $2.6 million for a study into road asset management and maintenance, and $6 million to fund engineering assessments to facilitate heavy vehicle access to local roads. 

The 2019-20 budget featured an additional $100 million per year for the Roads to Recovery Program, an extra $50 million annually for Black Spot funding, and the additional $25 million per year for the Bridges Renewal Program. 

While the funding boost is very welcome, it falls well short of resolving local governments’ current $30 billion infrastructure backlog.

With regard to climate change, the Coalition’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector plan includes investment in rural areas to help producers better manage drought and climate impacts. They pledged $3.5 billion over 15 years for a climate solutions plan, and a new $2 billion fund which includes money to revegetate degraded land.

Welcome steps, but more help is required. ALGA has invited Prime Minister Morrison and Opposition Leader Albanese to our National General Assembly (NGA) which runs 16-19 June in Canberra.

The Assembly is the largest gathering of local government delegates in Australia, an unmatched opportunity for the incoming government to outline its agenda, and for us to explain what matters most to local communities.

I look forward to meeting many fellow Local Government Focus readers and hearing your stories first hand at the NGA.