Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s revelation that next month’s federal Budget will contain further fiscal stimulus and job-creation initiatives is great news for our sector.
As the national focus shifts to creating the infrastructure and jobs needed to sustain a more dynamic and prosperous Australia, ALGA will be stepping up its campaign for funding from the Commonwealth (and the states) that we can invest directly or indirectly in our local communities.
Councils, working in partnership with our State and Federal colleagues, can potentially create tens of thousands of new jobs in areas such as roads, community infrastructure, social housing, and waste and recycling.
Of these areas, perhaps the most exciting in terms of growth potential is recycling, which along with clean energy is one of six priorities in the Federal Government’s strategy to lead the nation out of the Covid-19 crisis.
It was pleasing therefore that this month’s Environment Ministers Meeting agreed to a suite of actions to meet National Waste Policy Action Plan targets, including nationally consistent municipal waste collections.
The Environment Ministers Meeting (EMM) also agreed in principle to support a roll-out of Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) waste collection services and to implement standards within each jurisdiction for kerbside recycling.
No one disputes the value of harmonised waste collection services when people move interstate as often as they do, but the costs of achieving consistency cannot be allowed to fall entirely on local government.
Sensibly, Ministers endorsed a “national implementation road map that considers costs and benefits” at their meeting.
Whether it is recycling, community services, or infrastructure provision, we will forcefully make the case in public that funding local government is the most effective way for the federal government to increase employment.
After all, no other level of government can do what we do: implement job creation and infrastructure plans tailored especially to the circumstance of our diverse communities.
Local government’s can-do attitude has been an enduring feature of the official responses to the pandemic, and one of the reasons why public trust in our sector has increased over the past 12 months.
I was delighted to be able to background our contribution at this week’s Government Services Summit convened by the Australian Financial Review newspaper – and to point out it would have been more effective had ALGA been a member of the National Cabinet.
The summit’s theme was that in a post-pandemic digital era, government services that are relevant, efficient, connected, and fit for purpose have never been more important.
A strong and financially sustainable local government sector can play a vital role in enabling such services, as your ALGA will continue to make clear in its national advocacy.