Last Friday I attended my first COAG meeting and had the chance to discuss a number of issues of interest and relevance to local government with the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers. The meeting highlighted for me the key role local government plays in some of the major inter-governmental issues currently being addressed by COAG and the importance of local government participation in this forum.
Not surprisingly, there was considerable focus on the White Papers on the reform of federation and taxation. The reform of the federation has been an area of substantial importance for ALGA, stretching back to the report of the Commission of Audit last year and the questions it raised about the continued direct link between the Commonwealth and local government. I am firmly of the view that out of such reform we need to see the links between the three levels of government strengthened and a better alignment of funding and responsibility. This was the position I put to COAG. Indeed, ALGA wants to ensure that any reform strengthens rather than weakens the capacity to deliver government services locally.
COAG agreed to hold a leaders retreat in July 2015 to discuss potential reform to Australia's federation and tax arrangements and I believe that such a retreat will provide an opportunity for a breakthrough in the reform process. Following the COAG meeting I wrote to the Prime Minister expressing our support for the retreat and our commitment to continue to make a constructive contribution to the reform process.
The COAG meeting also focused on the threat of terrorism and, in particular, measures to counter extreme violence. While this is primarily a matter for the Commonwealth and the States there are some very tangible contributions which councils can make, particularly those councils with community programs which focus on engagement with young people at risk of radicalisation. I have encouraged all States to work with local government so that we can play our role in addressing this worrying threat.
On a final point, COAG considered the critical issue of how to reduce violence against women. All of the COAG members were united in their commitment to take action to address the problem and COAG has established an Advisory Panel to assist it on the issue. This is a problem which all levels of government and the community as a whole must work together to tackle and I am pleased to note that Panel Member and Australian of the Year Ms Rosie Batty will be addressing ALGA's National General Assembly in June.
Mayor Troy Pickard