President’s column – 9 July 2021

Local government’s willingness and capacity to step up on behalf of local businesses and local communities has again been to the fore this week.

Responding to current COVID lockdowns, councils in Brisbane and Sydney put additional support measures in place to protect local jobs and to support local businesses.

Councils in all states and territories continue to encourage people to abide by health restrictions and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

It is because the COVID-19 vaccination program has been so protracted, unfortunately, that we’re having to contend with recurring lockdowns.

Supply and hesitancy issues have slowed proceedings, but we would be closer to acquiring herd immunity had local government’s voice been heard at the national decision-making table and our offers of help around vaccinations been accepted.

Where we have been heard and listened to, local governments have delivered tangible results on behalf of local communities.

The Longreach Regional Council is a stand-out example of what empowered local governments can do to speed vaccinations and bring economically damaging lockdowns to an end.

Working with the Central West Health and Hospital Service and using town halls as vaccination hubs, the council oversaw the inoculation of a third of the region’s population by April. By June, all had received second jabs.

It’s a fantastic outcome for Longreach residents. Elsewhere, however, COVID-19 won’t be eliminated as a serious health threat until October or November, possibly later.

In the meantime, Commonwealth taxation revenue growth will continue to erode and debt levels rise. That, in turn, increases the likelihood of future expenditure reviews aimed at bringing the federal budget back to surplus.

Your ALGA is very attuned to this possibility and is working hard to counteract it.

Our federal election strategy, now being implemented, will focus heavily on local government’s contribution to COVID recovery, to business stability, to job-creation, and to maintaining community wellbeing.

We’ll be letting federal elected representatives and their parties know that if the financial sustainability of local government is shored up through adequate grant funding, councils can continue driving economic recovery and job creation.

It’s vital that our sector unites behind this national strategy, and that you as mayors and councillors seize all available opportunities to relate our stories and priorities to your elected representative and to local media.

Congratulations to those councils that contributed to NAIDOC Week and Plastic Free July activities – proving yet again that, regardless of circumstances, local government always steps up to make ours a better and more just society.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President