President’s Column: 5 April 2019

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

This week’s Federal Budget includes an increase in next year’s base funding for the Roads to Recovery program from $400m per annum to $500m per annum from 2019-20, and also sees increases in the annual funding for the Roads Safety Federal Blackspots and the Bridges Renewal programs of $50m and $25m respectively.

Regional Airports also benefit with a $100m package over four years to assist with essential capital works. Councils will also be eligible to apply for funding from a package of $190m over four years for upgrading community sports facilities and accommodating female change rooms.

The additional infrastructure funding in this Budget is essential and although well short of what we requested is strongly welcomed. It will allow councils to make some progress in addressing our infrastructure backlog which has been put at around $30 billion with almost 10% of local roads and bridges in poor or very poor condition.

The increase in funding for local roads may also help to address some of the urgent access problems heavy freight vehicles have on local roads which were not built to take today’s high productivity heavy vehicles. There is an allocation of $6 million in funding for the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to assist councils by funding engineering assessments for local government roads.

But this falls well short of ALGA’s request for a dedicated freight investment program of $200m per annum.

Local government is responsible for 75% of our road network, more than 650,000 kms in length, and cannot maintain this asset with just 3.6% of the nation’s tax revenue.

This Budget fails to address this fundamental mismatch of revenue and responsibility. It does not respond to ALGA’s call to restore FAGs to 1% of national tax revenue given that it has now fallen to just 0.55%.

Nevertheless, the increases announced while modest are a step in the right direction and we intend to continue our discussions with the Government and the Opposition regarding restoring a fairer share of taxation revenue to our local communities.

Last night it was disappointing that the Opposition Leader’s Budget Reply Speech had no mention of local government as a trusted partner to deliver essential services to our local communities. The issues of relevance to local government are detailed in a separate article and worthy of mention here are investments in TAFE for additional apprenticeships, (and the skills and workforce needs were the focus of a national report prepared for ALGA –, continued universal access to 15 hours of pre-school and kinder for 3 and 4 year-olds, new major transport projects and addressing mobile phone blackspots.

Mayor David O’Loughlin
ALGA President