President’s column – 22 January 2021

Happy New Year for 2021! A very warm welcome to you all at the start of what is likely to be another tumultuous year when local governments will be stretched and tested in many ways.

National Cabinet Advocacy – Striving for Your Seat at the Table

In 2020, local governments gave such magnificent support for Covid-19 recovery efforts – and I am confident councils will step up again when the Covid-19 vaccination program begins in earnest next month.

As the nation’s immediate fate is riding on the success of this massive public vaccination program, please do share with ALGA your work to support the Covid-19 vaccination program – email to let us know how you are contributing so we can share your story!

The Federal Government envisages giving four million people vaccinations by March. It is a daunting task given that people in regional Australia will receive their needles at the same time as city and urban dwellers.

GP-led respiratory clinics will have primary responsibility for administering the vaccines, however, councils can and will play a major role. This is in recognition of our community safety role, our extensive local knowledge, and the fact that we have public spaces available for vaccinations in areas where there are no GP-led respiratory clinics.

We can identify many of those individuals the Federal Government wants to be first in line to receive vaccinations – the elderly, those in aged and disability care, and front-line workers in the health sector – and we can help transport them to the clinics or GP surgeries and then return them home again.

We can help educate local communities about the program and the safety of the vaccines.

Incorporating this local know-how and ability to help into the original vaccination plans would have made perfect sense, but with ALGA not included in the National Cabinet, this was never possible.

Thank you to those of you who have called out this oversight that needs to be rectified so recovery from Covid-19 is as trouble-free as possible.

Thank you to Mayor Matt Burnett and Gladstone Regional Council, for example, whose resolution to write to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Scott Morrison ahead of this week’s National Cabinet meeting, calling for local government to be on National Cabinet to represent them when they consider whether new Covid-19 quarantine facilities are suitable for regional areas, has strongly supported our advocacy.

As Cr Burnett bluntly told ABC Radio News: “This highlights the need for a seat at the National Cabinet Table. This is going to affect local government and yet there is no local government representative at the table.”

Australia Day: Celebrating our Nation to Reflect Local Community Expectations

Once again, local government’s role in Australia Day activities is in the news and I look forward to defending our important role in determining the appropriateness of local events and celebrations.

Australia Day is an important recognition of our diverse origins and what it means to be Australian. It is also a day on which councils welcome our newest citizens and stage associated celebrations and activities for their local communities.

How individual councils mark Australia Day (and the timing of their events) must be a matter for local governments, knowing that we strive to reflect the broad wishes and aspirations of our communities whilst remaining fully accountable to them.

Personally, I am looking forward to attending our local City of Sydney Council citizenship ceremony and also our (online) Yabun Festival – an enormous celebration of First Nations culture, innovation and enterprise in Sydney.

Thank you for all you do to ensure this year’s Australia Day reflects the values of your local community.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President