What the politicians said

Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley

Referring to the General Assembly as the largest representative governmental body in Australia, Kim Beazley said that in the end all politics is local.

“The Constitutional recognition issue will not just go away,” he said. “We support this but fear it will be delayed with the new Government. The Minister, Warwick Smith believes it is a matter for the States but it is the States that are the problem.” Kim Beazley said that 1995 was the year that Local Government came of age in the Federal system and this coming of age needs to be defended very vigorously.

“You should not accept second best under the proposed Memorandum of Understanding,” he continued. “You should have guarantees regardless of who is in Government. There is no reason why it is not a bipartisan agreement. You have made huge advances in the last few years and now face the difficult task of protecting hard won reforms.” He added that, over the last 13 years, the Labor Party has learned from Local Government how to deliver a program properly and will not forget this.

Federal Mister for Sport, Territories and Local Government, Warwick Smith

The Minister said that he recognised how important the Assembly is to Local Government particularly with the change of Government earlier this year. Using the theme, “Change in Local Government over the next five years”, Warwick Smith said that he looked forward to receiving feedback on his views and suggestions relating to Local Government reform.

Pointing to evidence of significant economic benefits through structural reform, he said that ultimately this was a matter for State and Local Government. However, he clearly stated that the Commonwealth has a legitimate interest in promoting economic growth and ensuring Federal funding provides needed services efficiently and effectively.

Differentiating from Victoria’s Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT), the Minister said that Competitive Tendering and Contracting out (CTC) can promote customer focussed, outcome orientated service delivery, providing a valuable tool which Local Government can choose to use to improve its efficiency.

Turning to differences of opinion between the ALGA and Government over the draft Memorandum of Understanding, he said that negotiation involves give and take not just a capitulation by the Commonwealth on every contentious issue.

Shadow Minister for Local Government, Mark Latham

“More than any other level of government, Local Government reflects the fact that we are a society, not just an economy,” Mark Latham said. “Councillors, more than most, know the power of well resourced localism; its capacity to uplift communities and provide new tiers for social opportunity. Local Government should be the vanguard of those who argue for the active role of government in our society.”

Pointing to the belief by Conservative Governments that the best solutions remain outside the domain of government, he said the short sightedness of public sector cut backs are punching holes in local economies. He asserts that jobs lost are not being replaced by private sector investment and there is evidence that for every two public sector jobs lost, the private sector also reduces by one.

“Most of the problems facing our citizens do not lie outside the domain of Government,” Mark Latham concluded.

Australian Democrats Spokesperson on Local Government, Senator Lyn Allison

Senator Allison said that, although all States do not have the same undemocratic approach as Victoria, the decline in standards of democracy are seeing local communities disempowered.

She added that the ramifications of the National Competition Policy (NCP) are also beginning to appear. The ILAP process, with its holistic and public participatory approach, is now out of place with NCP.

“Planned removal of review processes in Victoria opens the doors for development in National Parks and high rises on beach fronts,” she said. “Budget cuts are a direct assault on remote and rural communities. With the sense of despondency in urban and rural communities, you do not have to look far for a reason for the growth of ‘Pauline Hansonism’.

“The current debate on welfare cuts to migrants could see a double dissolution election fought on this issue. This is something Australia does not need.”