President’s column – 5 February 2020

ALGA lodged its 2021-22 Pre-Budget Submission with the Federal Treasury last week – the essence of which is that more federal support for local government will help strengthen Covid-19 recovery.

The measures outlined in the submission include:

  • Continuing the $1.5 billion Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program with a focus on sustainable transport initiatives;
  • Establishing a targeted disaster mitigation program of $200 million a year for four years;
  • Restoring the quantum of Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1 percent of Commonwealth tax revenue;
  • Establishing a local roads investment program to address first and last-mile freight efficiency issues;
  • Providing funding of $120 million a year over four years for local government arts and culture; and
  • Providing funding of $100 million a year over four years for local government circular economy innovation.

ALGA estimates these and other Budget priorities for local government will create over 31,000 jobs and boost GDP by $4.65 billion.

We can and will play a vital role in the coming months and years to bolster local economies, make communities more resilient, and build a better, more prosperous.

But we must be provided with the necessary support and resources – as our submission makes very clear.

The Covid-19 vaccination program starting in a few weeks will be the largest and most ambitious of its kind ever attempted in Australia.

Its ultimate success depends heavily on state and federal governments working closely with local government – hopefully in ways that recognise each sector’s strengths and attributes.

Local government’s strong suit is its connection to the community: we can talk directly to our communities, listen to their concerns, provide leadership, and act as their advocates in intergovernmental forums.

That is why I wrote to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt recently seeking his support for including frontline council workers in the cohort which will get their shots first.

The Morrison Government has already said that health care and aged care workers, first responders, and seniors will be among those that are first in line for jabs.

Frontline local government staff, including waste services staff, building and compliance officers, rangers, and food and environmental health workers, should also be considered for priority status.

Two significant public benefits would flow from vaccinating frontline staff:

  • Potential future interruption to essential services delivery would be minimised; and
  • Council workers could be pressed into service to support the rollout of the vaccination program.

Regardless of what happens, I know council staff will give 100 percent to ensure this multi-billion-dollar program is as successful as our other efforts have been to date in minimising Covid-19 case numbers and fatalities.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President