Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with the new Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP. I congratulated Mr Fletcher on his appointment and expressed ALGA's willingness to work cooperatively with him to achieve mutual goals.
During this meeting, I also reiterated some of the key Local Government concerns and challenges, to which Mr Fletcher was amenable and receptive.
I highlighted ALGA's concern with any proposition to sever the direct funding relationship between Local Government and the Commonwealth. ALGA's leading priority is to ensure that the Federal-Local Government relationship is strengthened, not weakened. The relationship between the Commonwealth and Local Government must remain stable and enduring to continue to deliver the important services that benefit not only our local communities but that are also in the nation's interest.
I also raised the opportunity for a partnership between the Federal and Local Government in terms of increasing investment in infrastructure as an option of addressing productivity issues. For instance, first- and last-mile issues have been identified as a major obstacle to the roll-out and efficiency of high productivity vehicles in Australia. Investment in addressing the planning, knowledge and system gaps associated with these issues could go a long way in achieving higher productivity and securing productivity gains in real terms.
I emphasised that another key priority for Local Government is the restoration of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) indexation as soon as possible. The decision to freeze indexation of FAGs will consequently strip $925 million from Local Government by 2017-18. These grants are a vital part of the revenue base of all councils and are used to help fund essential local services and infrastructure; the reduction in funds over the life of the freeze will see all councils working with less funding from the Commonwealth into the future.
Interestingly, Mr Fletcher has indicated that his focus will be in innovative and transformative councils, which follows the Turnbull Ministry's direction of taking full advantage of the great opportunities arising in Australia to build a more prosperous future for us all by being more innovative, more technologically sophisticated, more creative, more competitive and more productive.
The Minister intends to meet with the ALGA Board in the coming months to further discuss how Local Government can assist the Government in achieving its economic vision for our country.
The Minister will also address the 2015 National Local Roads and Transport Congress in Ballarat. If you have not yet registered to attend the Congress, you're welcome to do so at this link.
Mayor Troy Pickard