The final sitting week of the federal winter Parliamentary sitting period has seen a number of reports tabled that are of particular interest to Local Government.
The most topical was the Senate Standing Committee report on the Waste and Recycling Industry in Australia. This committee, chaired by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, included a range of recommendations that are consistent with ALGA’s existing policy as well as with a number of motions moved by councils at our recent National General Assembly (NGA).
The committee recommended that the Australian Government prioritise the establishment of a circular economy and the implementation of a national container deposit scheme. It also recommended that state and territory and local governments pursue sustainable procurement policies to ensure strong domestic markets for recycled materials. This is something I spoke about at the NGA, where I urged all councils to follow the lead of Hume City Council in their recent use of an asphalt product that contains recycled plastics in its road mix and consider sending a signal to the market that from 2020 they will only purchase asphalt and other road materials that include recycled materials.
I look forward to hearing the Government’s response to the report and will continue to advocate on this issue in the best interests of our communities and your councils.
The House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation also tabled its report. This report has a strong focus on the role of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committees and recommends that each RDA Committee develops a coordinated regional strategic plan in consultation with state and territory governments. The regional strategic plans will identify a pipeline of infrastructure projects and priorities and are expected to identify potential Regional City Deals.
While I strongly support many of the recommendations, I am concerned about the extensive and important role proposed for the RDAs. I acknowledge that RDA Committees operate in a complex political and economic planning environment; however, feedback from many state and territory local government associations and councils suggested that this complexity and often overlapping responsibilities for economic planning for regions can lead to competing and/or misalignment of regional priorities and potential conflict between major stakeholders. This is particularly the case in much of regional NSW where they now have RDAs, ROCs and JOCs, many of which have different memberships and boundaries, and all are trying to coexist and be relevant.
This is an issue that I will discuss, on your behalf, in more detail with the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Dr John McVeigh to ensure that we get the best outcomes possible for our regional communities and local governments.
Keep up the great work!
Mayor David O’Loughlin