This week has seen a huge win for councils across Australia with an agreement made between the Government and the Opposition to boost Roads to Recovery funding over the next two years using revenue raised from reintroducing the indexation of fuel excise to inflation. The additional revenue will be around $1.1 billion and will bring Roads to Recovery program funding to around $1 billion for each of the next two financial years. What a fantastic result for local government!
The announcement came on Tuesday morning with a press conference by the Opposition proposing the policy initiative, and the Government's agreement following shortly after. I noted that during Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese's press conference, they drew a direct link between this funding boost and its alleviation of some of the effects of the freeze to Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) indexation. This is a strong indication that our FAGs campaign message, highlighting the impact of the freeze on councils, is getting through and it is a direct reflection of our hard work advocating and pushing this issue.
It is also worth noting that this initiative comes hot on the heels of last week's National General Assembly of Local Government. The profile that our NGA gives to local government and the challenges we face, especially our financial sustainability, has an impact at the Federal level. That impact is reinforced and strengthened by the complementary advocacy of state and territory local government associations and individual councils with Ministers and local MPs during their time in Canberra. Our advocacy sends a strong and consistent message to our Federal representatives that local government can band together to stand up for the needs of their communities.
It is for this reason that it is so important that local government is addressed and heard as part of the Reform of Federation and Taxation White Paper processes. This week the Government released a Discussion Paper on the Reform of the Federation, with the Green Paper yet to be finalised. I was disappointed that, for the most part, the Discussion Paper was silent on local government. The areas of focus in the Discussion Paper – health, education and housing/homelessness – encompass major reform opportunities but local government, and the delivery of a sufficient level of services and infrastructure to local communities, is also important.
It is not clear what the outcomes of the Discussion Paper will be, but it is abundantly clear that the Federation White Paper should address how the needs of communities at the local level can be better met and we at ALGA will continue to drive this agenda in the development of the Green Paper.
Mayor Troy Pickard