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Councils offer conduit for fast, targeted stimulus with long term benefits

  • Stimulus funding for councils would support local jobs
  • Local government stands ready to partner with the Prime Minister in time of crisis

While the nation’s health experts tackle the virus crisis head on, local businesses and jobs are grinding to a halt – and Councils want to fill the gaps to keep our economy healthy too.

Rebuilding bushfire ravaged communities, creating jobs in areas of drought, accelerating investment in recycling technologies, fixing rutted roads, widening road shoulders, installing wire rope barriers, and renewing worn out community infrastructure.

“These are immediate needs, with national policy alignment, shovel ready for targeted short-term stimulus and with long term benefits to the nation. These are all areas in which local councils stand ready to partner with the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to help keep the wheels of the economy turning in this time of national need“ said Mayor David O’Loughlin, President of the Australian Local Government Association.

“We call on the Commonwealth to immediately restore historic levels of funding through targeted local government programs such as Financial Assistance Grants, and to significantly boost funding through programs such as Roads to Recovery, Bridges Renewal, Road Safety Blackspots, Drought and Bushfire Relief programs. These are all proven pathways for distributing additional funding and stimulating local, state and the national economies.“

“Every dollar invested by the State and Commonwealth in Local Governments will yield immediate dividends in boosting local spending, keeping local businesses trading, sustaining existing jobs and creating new outdoor jobs to help relieve unprecedented pressure on indoor jobs in tourism, hospitality and discretionary retail. “

“These are not sugar hits or short term handouts – every additional dollar invested in Local Government will renew or create high value and long-lasting infrastructure, restoring communities, improving safety, and boosting productivity.“

“We want exactly what the Prime Minister wants – stability during this pandemic crisis, a rapid recovery, and a stronger economy on the other side”, said Australian Local Government Association President Mayor David O’Loughlin.

“In times of crisis people expect governments to step up. Local Government can, and will, if historic levels of funding are restored and further boosts are provided”

“The recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack of an increase in bridges renewal funding for bushfire affected councils is a perfect example of tying stimulus funding through local government to clear and agreed areas of need. Areas which we had already identified before the pandemic.”

Working together, quickly and relying on long-established funding pathways and established needs, Local Government can play a critical role in keeping local economies alive and building stronger communities to ensure the nation’s recovery is on a firm footing.

Available for interview:

Mayor David O’Loughlin, President, Australian Local Government Association.

Media enquiries:

Abby Carey, Executive Assistant, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), 0418 415 649, 02 6122 9422, abby.carey@alga.asn.au


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BOM webinar on Autumn outlook

Councils are invited to join the Bureau of Meteorology’s next free webinar on Thursday 5 March which covers climate and water.

Participants can ask climate experts questions about their outlook for Autumn to help their decision making for the months ahead.

The webinar runs 12-1pm AEDT. Register now via http://ow.ly/2d4a50yr2CU

VIC recycling reforms; NSW’s in doubt: LGNSW

While Victoria’s recycling system is set to change following an announcement this week by the Andrews State Government, Local Government New South Wales has warned that Australia’s most populous state risks having more of its waste sent to landfill.

Recycling Victoria is a $300m, 10-year plan to create a circular economy through measures including a fourth waste bin (purple for glass), a container deposit scheme from 2023, and a diversion from landfill target of 80 percent.

The decision follows the collapse of SKM Recycling in 2019 and the COAG agreement last August to ban the export of plastics and other waste to countries such as China, which in 2017 said it would no longer accept imports of other countries’ poor quality waste products.

The announcement comes almost 12 months since the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) released its five-point Rescue Our Recycling plan that outlined steps all levels of government could take.

“We welcome the State’s commitment to work with local government on the design of the container deposit scheme and to provide funding and implementation support for the roll-out of separate services for glass and food waste,” Cr Ruth Gstrein, MAV Deputy President (Rural) said.

“We are pleased to see the policy acknowledges that councils will need to tailor service models to the needs of their communities, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Cr Gstrein also said the MAV wasn’t surprised by the Victorian Government’s decision to progressively raise the landfill levy over coming years, adding MAV didn’t want Victoria to become a dumping ground for interstate waste.

“We anticipate that the $129 million funding support for kerbside bin reform will only cover a portion of the implementation costs for councils,” she added.

“More funding assistance will be needed to reduce impacts on households.”

Speaking after the Victorian announcement, LGNSW President, Cr Linda Scott said her association and local councils have advocated for more than a year for the NSW Government to reinvest the NSW waste levy in recycling.

“Councils are still waiting on the long-promised state waste strategy,” Cr Scott said.

“Meanwhile, NSW is generating more waste than ever; household recycling and waste diversion rates are stagnating; and existing regulation and procurement policies continue to stymy innovation and the development of new recycled products and markets.

“With export bans on waste material quickly approaching and stockpiles of recycled resources growing in NSW, it is critical for more effort to be made to support the recycling industry to improve waste management practices and boost markets for recyclable materials.”

LGNSW and NSW councils, renewed their call for the NSW Government to save the state’s recycling system in four ways:

1. allowing councils to develop regional waste plans and deliver priority infrastructure;

2.  increase procurement of recycled goods made with domestic content;

3. deliver statewide education campaigns to promote waste avoidance and recycling;

and 4. introduce producer responsibility schemes for problematic materials.

Plastics Summit

These developments come ahead of the National Plastics Summit at Parliament House in Canberra on 2 March that’s been convened by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley.

The gathering will feature several federal ministers, many local governments, dozens of industry groups, school children, and the wider public.

ALGA President and Mayor of the City of Prospect, David O’Loughlin, will speak during the session ‘plastics and our daily life’.

ATO urges councils use e-invoicing

Did you know more than 60 percent of councils spend around 100 hours on processing invoices every month? Or that more than half of councils spend over $10,000 each month on this task?

E-invoicing is a smarter and cheaper way to do invoicing, and Local Government needs to get involved because the way those transactions are done is changing, the Australian Taxation Office says.

Australia and New Zealand are bridging the digital divide for businesses and opening trading borders through a common approach to e-invoicing.

This relies on international standards and common digital services that speak the same language, connecting trading partners and their systems into an open network.

Unlike scanning and emailing of invoices, e-invoicing enables suppliers and buyers to send and receive invoices directly to and from their software.

The result is no manual entry, less paper, scanning errors, phone calls and more focus on things that matter – your community.

The Australian Government is behind e-invoicing and committed to paying suppliers quicker when they use e-invoicing.

The ATO has been granted legal powers to administer the e-invoicing system in Australia and is working with government agencies and businesses to drive adoption.

State Governments are onboard and progressively making practical steps towards Peppol, such as NSW.

The ATO says it’s time for Local Government to get involved and benefit from e-invoicing.

Learn more here and ask your financials software provider about e-invoicing.

Strong local government advocacy behind Commonwealth’s latest drought funding

Advocacy by ALGA and state and territory local government associations has led to the Commonwealth’s expanded drought assistance, which includes support for child care centres that councils called for at the National General Assembly of Local Government.

The Commonwealth on 7 November announced a package which included widening the Drought Communities Extension Programme by six councils to 128 – totaling $128 million and – plus a $50 million fund for council infrastructure projects.

Some of these councils are receiving a second round of funding, as many have already spent the funds allocated earlier.

ALGA and its member state and territory local government associations in drought affected jurisdictions have made numerous representations to Deputy Prime Minister McCormack, Treasurer Frydenberg, Drought Minister Littleproud, and Local Government Minister Coulton, emphasising that councils and communities need support, not just farmers.

“We’re really pleased by today’s announcement because this much needed money will make a real difference to communities hurting amid the relentless drought,” ALGA Acting President, Cr Linda Scott, said.

“Councils have identified a range of projects that can be rolled out rapidly to support their communities, including farmers and farm-dependent businesses. Wherever possible, these projects have multiple benefits including jobs, infrastructure upgrades and community wellbeing.

“In addition to building resilience, these projects also create local jobs, not just for farmers but also other types of local workers who’ve been unable to find employment due to the drought.”

The Commonwealth added Greater Hume, Hilltops, Lockhart and Upper Lachlan (all in NSW) and South Australia’s Tatiara and Kangaroo Island to the list of 122 eligible councils that received $1m each in September 2019.

Those 128 councils can also apply for $138.9 million in Roads to Recovery Funding in calendar year 2020.

There’s also $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund for centres which have lost income because families can’t families can’t afford fees, and $10m for drought-affected schools.

The National General Assembly in June passed Forbes Shire Council’s motion which called on the Minister for Education to provide additional ‘Drought Relief Payments’ to regionally based child care centres, mobile pre-schools and Preschools to pass onto families as free pre-school places and attendance for -5-year-olds.

The ALGA Board noted the resolution and wrote to Education Minister Dan Tehan MP and Minister for Water Resources and Drought, David Littleproud MP.

Mr Tehan replied to ALGA in October, and on 7 November said the Commonwealth would provide $15 million to ensure childcare centres and schools could stay open amid the drought.

Climate Change

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth also yesterday released a report by former Drought Co-ordinator General Major General Stephen Day, which was dated April 2019, and the government’s response.

“As a consequence of climate change, drought is likely to be more regular, longer in duration, and broader in area”, Major General Day’s report said, adding some areas of Australia could become “more marginal and unproductive.”

His recommendations include a pilot community resilience program for a not-for-profit organisation to work with local governments and communities to help their ability to “adapt and cope with chronic stresses and acute shocks”.

That pilot project should be evaluated, with the findings informing consideration of a national program, the Major General added.

The Commonwealth noted that recommendation and said it was “partially implemented through two programs” – the Drought Communities Program and project grants via the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.

President’s Column – 19 July 2019

Local councils are at the forefront of community efforts to tackle Australia’s worsening housing affordability and homelessness challenges.

While people sleeping rough on the street in our capital cities is of course a problem, our communities in rural, regional and remote Australia are also responding to housing challenges including lack of affordable housing, or overcrowding.

Councils engage in many ways in housing depending on the issues and priorities in their communities. For example, by using excess council land or buildings for housing, collaborating with local community service providers, hosting local housing forums, or providing information about homelessness services, and helping meet housing needs through council-owned caravan parks.

Many councils also deliver or engage with homelessness services, among them:

• City of Salisbury (SA) – Assistance with Care and Housing Project which aims to support those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to access appropriate and sustainable housing.
• City of Fremantle (WA) – Solutions based approach to interactions between front line staff and people who are homeless.
• Parramatta City Council, Liverpool City Council and North Sydney Council (NSW) – All have developed Homelessness Strategies, Policies or Action Plans.

Cairns Regional Council has a guide on tropical building design which seeks to minimise housing energy costs. Many councils promote the development of low cost “tiny homes”, that can be either wheeled or permanently fixed on a plot of land. Mitchell Shire on Melbourne’s northern fringes is supporting the Transition Village Wallan project where 10 off-grid tiny homes will be built for homeless people.

At ALGA’s 2019 Regional Cooperation and Development Forum and National General Assembly, researchers involved in the ARC Linkage Project on Local Government and Housing in Australia for the 21st Century explained what local councils outside the capital cities are doing to meet their local challenges.

According to Emeritus Professor John Martin of La Trobe University, Gwydir Shire Council (NSW) works in a range of housing areas, such as owning and renting out six houses, is a guarantor for mortgages through the Regional Australia Bank, has an infill strategy that encourages ‘granny flats’, and collects rent on state-owned public housing which it uses to maintain the properties.

As University of South Australia Business School’s Professor Andrew Beer told the NGA, local governments are providing many local housing services, such as ensuring a supply of land, engaging with other tiers of government, coordinating social services, and developing and implementing planning schemes.

Professor Beer said senior levels of government often don’t understand the important role local governments can play in housing, and sometimes local councils have been blamed for policy settings not of their making.

Councils are often unfairly criticised for lack of land availability even when they are constrained by financial resources and legislative requirements. Land availability is a complex issue not simply addressed by rezoning for residential purposes.

Rezoned land also requires appropriate local and state level infrastructure and services to ensure not just a supply of housing, but the creation of liveable communities.

Professor Beer also noted that while local governments are doing good work in the housing sector, there’s a sense of reluctance among some to share that good news because of fears of further cost-shifting by more other tiers of government.

I can understand that reluctance.

Twelve councils from across regional, metropolitan and regional Australia, and the Local Government Association of SA are partners in the Local Government and Housing research project. I encourage you to visit the site for project updates, as the project is due to finish by the end of 2019.

I look forward to learning more about the various ways local government is stepping up to addressing housing needs in our communities, and sharing them with you.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President.

New study shows worrying picture for journalism in regional Australia

16 June 2019

A new study of the media in regional Australia has found fewer local journalists available to report on local government means communities are less informed, leading to public opinion being more easily manipulated by partisan interests, undermining social cohesion.

It was conducted this year by the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, and forms part of the 2019 State of the Regions report released today by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

“The picture that emerges is of a sharp and worrying decline in the amount of local news available to Australians,” guest authors, Margaret Simons and Gary Dickson wrote.

“Given that numerous pieces of research worldwide indicate a close relationship between journalism and the broader civic health of communities, this decline has serious implications for the agency, power and health of citizens in Australia’s regions.”

The study confirms that the broken traditional media model has led to advertising dollars going online to search engines and other platforms, rather than traditional media outlets. Shrinking newsrooms means fewer journalists covering local news for local communities.

The authors noted that regional and rural news media fulfil a need that metropolitan media cannot, and while the ABC makes an important contribution, it cannot address the overall decline.

The writers surveyed media managers employed by Local Government Areas (LGAs) in metropolitan, regional and rural areas.

They found almost half of respondents from the metropolitan and regional and rural areas noted “some decline” or “significant decline” in local news coverage over the past five years.

“If we look at the basic news media function of reporting on local government, more than a third of LGAs reported that no journalists attended local government meetings,” the authors said.

“Although the figures suggest that some journalists follow up without attending the meeting, the indications are that a large part of local government business goes entirely unscrutinised and unreported.”

The authors concluded that fewer journalists means less public accountability of interest groups and institutions.

“Media is likely to become more partisan and selective, and increasingly controlled and manipulated by those who have the skills and interest to do so. This, in turn, is likely to lead to less social cohesion.”

Mayor David O’Loughlin, ALGA President and Mayor of the City of Prospect in Adelaide’s inner north, said he hopes the study can spark a crucial national conversation.

“The authors have done Australians a great service in highlighting a problem that affects the way local communities are informed across the country, but especially in regional, rural and remote areas,” he said.

“There are no easy answers to remedying the decline in journalists, but we need to discuss it and share ideas about possible solutions.”

The 2019-20 State of the Regions: Population, productivity and purchasing power was written for ALGA by National Economics and released at ALGA’s Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in Canberra on 16 June.

Associate Professor Simons from Monash University and the Public Interest Journalism Initiative will be among a panel of experts discussing regional media at the Forum. Media are invited to attend.

ALP’s Local Government Plan is Welcome Progress

• Labor acknowledges financial sustainability challenges facing local governments
• Opposition matches Government commitments on Roads to Recovery, Bridges funding
• $260m promised for cycle paths can spur healthier local communities

The President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Mayor David O’Loughlin, has welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s commitments under the Plan for Local Government issued by the Opposition today.

ALGA outlined its Federal Election priories in its election document All Politics is Local, issued in September last year, well in advance of the election.

It identified 12 priorities including restoring funding assistance to local government, improving the safety of local roads, national leadership on waste and recycling, initiatives to address climate change, as well as greater commitment to Indigenous well-being.

In its Plan, the ALP has matched the Government’s funding commitments to Roads to Recovery, Bridges Renewal community infrastructure, regional telecommunications and Financial Assistance Grants, but has gone further in its commitment to provide $260m in funding for cycle paths.

“The infrastructure commitments by the ALP will reassure councils that the increases in base level funding for essential programs such as Roads to Recovery and Bridges Renewal announced in the Budget will be met,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

“This certainty is vital to councils’ budgeting processes”.

ALGA has also welcomed the commitment to strengthen Australia’s circular economy by establishing a National Waste Commission and investing $60m in a national recycling fund.

“Waste and recycling has emerged as a major challenge facing all councils and the ALP commitment to greater national leadership is something the local government sector and communities have been crying out for.”

ALGA is also pleased by the ALP’s promise of $62m for climate adaption and coastal rehabilitation. The Association has called for a program to support communities with their climate change responses.

Mayor O’Loughlin also responded positively to the funding commitment to help to address housing and employment issues in Indigenous communities.

“ALGA has called for both parties to continue providing funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing,” he said.

“While neither party has fully committed to that need, the ALP has gone further than the Coalition in providing funding for the NT, Queensland, WA and South Australia”.

The ALP’s Plan also contained some positive recognition of the financial sustainability challenges local governments have faced for more than two decades.

Since 1996 the level of funding assistance provided to local government by the Commonwealth government through the Financial Assistance Grants has fallen to just 0.55% of Commonwealth Taxation revenue from 1%.

At the same time, local governments have been subject to cost-shifting and rate-capping by state governments.

Labor has committed to working with local, state and territory government with the aim of reaching an agreement on the financial sustainability of local government.

“While both major parties have yet to respond to ALGA’s call to provide a fairer level of funding to local communities through the restoration of Financial Assistance Grants funding, the ALP’s commitment to seek an agreement across the three levels of government to address local governments’ financial sustainability is progress,” Mayor O’Loughlin said.

Media enquiries:
Paris Lord, Director Public Affairs, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), 0418 415 649, 02 6122 9434, paris.lord@alga.ans.au

Available for interview:
Mayor David O’Loughlin, President Australian Local Government Association (high resolution head shot available at this Dropbox link)

Submission to the 2019-20 Federal Budget

This submission outlines 13 initiatives developed on behalf of the 537 councils across Australia and the state and territory local government associations. These initiatives will support much needed additional investment in local communities and are designed to benefit every community by improving local services and infrastructure, promoting fairness and boosting local, regional and national productivity.


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Managing Population and Change

Australia’s population at the national, state and territory and local level is determined by natural increase and migration. Our ability to manage that population and the changes in population requires a strategic partnership between all three levels of Government which involves closer collaboration and alignment not only between levels of Governments but also with industry and the community. We need an overarching population strategy to plan and set a coordinated vision at the national level, which can then inform strategies and actions at the state and local levels. National polices and actions should reflect input from the state level which itself should draw on local input.


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Local Government Workforce and Future Skills Report Australia

The Local Government Workforce Development Group (LGWDG) comprises representatives from each state and territory Local Government Association and provides advice on workforce matters to the Australian Local Government Association. The LGWDG undertook this study to identify the current and emerging skill needs of Local Government to better position the sector for the future.


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