It was wonderful to see strong bipartisan backing for local government’s ability to create jobs and lead economic recovery this week, as part of the Federal Budget and the Opposition Leader’s Budget in Reply speech.
The direct wins for local government from the Morrison Government’s third Budget included:
- $1 billion in new funding to extend the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program until June 2023;
- $250 million in new funding for Building Better Regions (BBRF) – the largest allocation for a BBRF round yet;
- $600 million to invest in a new program of disaster preparation and mitigation (managed by the new National Recovery and Resilience Agency);
- $258 million for water infrastructure projects as part of the National Water Grid Fund; and
- $50 million for projects under the National Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Program.
Also welcome was Labor’s Budget response, which reiterated the need for responsible, inclusive government to “engage with local communities, listen to local leaders, and work hard to find out what investments they need”.
There is still lots of unfinished business from ALGA’s perspective, however.
Financial Assistance Grants funding remains well below what councils need to provide adequate services and infrastructure; the Budget’s climate and environment measures were underwhelming; and funding for arts and culture remains stagnant.
Our ALGA National General Assembly next month is a great chance to amplify our advocacy goals (especially financial sustainability), and to raise awareness of the crucial role that councils play in creating jobs, addressing climate change, enabling a circular economy to develop, and delivering economic stimulus through, among other things, arts and cultural activities.
As part of the NGA, I will be delivering an address at the National Press Club during which I will touch on these and the many other issues that are local government priorities.
That work has become even more important during the COVID pandemic – and local government’s capacity to contribute needs to be acknowledged in both a financial and political sense.
The National Press Club is the ideal forum for broadcasting this message to our federal elected leaders and representatives.
I hope you can be there to add weight to our collective mission.