Lack of local government involvement in federation reform process a missed opportunity: ALGA

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) says planned national federation reforms announced today are a lost opportunity to drive jobs growth and economic reform at the local level.

“The National Cabinet is continuing with a broader remit than the health response for which it was first established, and ALGA, as the national voice of Local Government in Australia, must be a foundation member – just as we were of COAG,” ALGA President David O’Loughlin said.

ALGA has been a Council of Australian Governments member since its inception in 1992, representing local communities, contributing to national policy development, and partnering with other levels of government to get the job done.

Ranging from infrastructure and road safety policy to Closing the Gap, reducing violence against women, and embracing the waste export ban, ALGA has listened to grassroots government and influenced decision-making and implementation at the peak decision-making level for the betterment of the nation for nearly 30 years.

The priority was on the three levels of government working together for the benefit of communities.

“In this new environment, with the coronavirus pandemic largely suppressed and where the emphasis is now shifting to economic recovery, it has never been more vital for the three tiers of government to be aligned to support and facilitate jobs growth and to get our economy back on track,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

He said local governments have increasingly taken a lead role in local and regional economic development, reflecting their on-ground presence and expertise, and filling the gaps left by other governments in recent years in investment attraction, business mentoring, training, networking and incubation.

“Local government has long had a strong role in economic development and investment attraction,” he said.

“From our first council in Adelaide in 1840 to the present day there isn’t a council in the land that doesn’t have an eye to the future and a strategy to get there.

“To not embrace this goodwill and planning within National Cabinet is to the detriment of the nation,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

Along with the Australian, State and Territory Governments, local councils are jointly involved in funding or  delivering in a large number of policy areas, including freight infrastructure and productivity, human services (child care, aged care), land use planning, population management, housing and development regulation, social cohesion, natural resources and environmental management.

“If Commonwealth wants to create a stronger more sustainable economy post Covid-19, they need all levels of government working together, shoulder to the wheel, because there is too much at stake not to,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“We would have expected the new architecture outlined today by the Prime Minister to fully reflect local government’s role in our federation structures.

During the coronavirus pandemic, every council nationwide has stepped up to play an important role in containing the virus and supporting the community to minimise the social and economic impacts.

“In many ways, we were the ‘boots on the ground’, providing health inspections and community education, monitoring compliance, supporting businesses in difficulty, powering on with development assessment and business networking, keeping in touch with vulnerable citizens in isolation, delivering meals and shopping, even library books, to make our communities as safe and connected as possible during difficult times,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“The average Australian expects their governments to work together for their benefit, at all levels, across all topics that can improve their lives and livelihoods.

“ALGA will continue to argue for this goal as the reforms announced today are rolled out, and we will look to all opportunities to make sure the voice and concerns of local communities are heard in intergovernmental forums,” he said.