I was pleased to represent local government at the recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in Canberra where commitment was made by COAG Leaders to explore fundamental changes to our federation that will drive economic reform and secure better outcomes for all Australians. Although discussion on the day centred mostly on health and taxation, we cannot lose sight of some of the other significant issues that COAG dealt with – issues that have a major impact at the local level in local communities.
In particular, COAG made some progress in advancing Indigenous economic development by agreeing in principle to a draft National Indigenous Participation Framework. This is an area in which many local councils are active, often undertaking work to promote Indigenous employment (both within and beyond the local government sector) and supporting local Indigenous companies.
Local government associations have a strong record of promoting Indigenous employment and procurement opportunities. For instance, the Municipal Association of Victoria has put in place an 'Aboriginal Employment Framework' that supports councils to increase the Indigenous representation in Victoria's local government workforce, and provides resources for Indigenous job seekers and guidance for councils on Indigenous cultural practices in the workplace.
ALGA supports all levels of government working together to empower Indigenous Australians in the economy and in our communities.
The COAG Leaders also raised the longstanding issue of vertical fiscal imbalance and the need to better align revenues and responsibilities where possible to create a more efficient federation, including through state tax reform. Discussion was also had regarding competition reform, which closely draws on the Harper Competition Policy Review and touches on three key areas for local government: road pricing reform, deregulation and planning.
The Council on Federal Financial Relations, which consists of the Treasurers of the Commonwealth and the States, will progress work on broader opportunities for tax reform as well as develop a new competition and productivity enhancing reform agreement.
This broad agenda will require all levels of government, including local government, to play their part in ensuring reform that contributes to strong economic growth. I have obtained agreement from the Commonwealth that local government will be directly engaged in any discussions about these reforms to ensure our communities are best served by all three spheres of government.
The COAG communique is available at this link.
Mayor Troy Pickard