Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his Ministry this week and, although it remained mostly unchanged, there was an important development for the local government portfolio which was elevated to the Cabinet and now sits with Senator the Hon Fiona Nash. The Senator was appointed the Minister for Local Government and Territories in addition to her role as the Minister for Regional Development.
The Infrastructure and Transport portfolio structure will remain basically the same with the Hon Darren Chester continuing as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and the Hon Paul Fletcher appointed as Minister for Urban Infrastructure.
A key priority now for ALGA is to establish – and as appropriate re-establish – our strong relationships with the incoming Ministers and Shadow Ministers in key portfolios. On this front, I will be seeking meetings with the Ministers and Shadow Ministers over the coming weeks to discuss the Government's and Opposition's policies concerning local government and the current priorities facing communities. In particular, I will seek Senator Nash's views on local governments in rural and regional areas and the proposed regional development policy set to be released in 2017.
I will also seek to discuss in more detail the budget and election outcomes for local government.
The May Budget papers confirmed the Government's continued commitment to restore indexation on Financial Assistance Grants from 1 July next year and, for the first time, indicated that Roads to Recovery (R2R) would continue past June 2019 and the annual funding for R2R would increase from $350 million to $400 million.
During the election campaign, the Coalition committed to a new $50 million Smart Cities Program to fund local government initiatives which apply innovative, technology-based approaches to areas of planning infrastructure and service provision. The details of the program, which is focused on urban areas, will be developed in the months to come but we must also look to ensure whether any initiatives developed under the program could be extended to regional and rural centres.
ALGA looks forward to mapping out and progressing these commitments with the Government over the coming months.
Mayor Troy Pickard