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Subprogram 6.1-Government relations

SENATOR CALVERT -I note on page 179 that as a result of the Local Government Ministers Conference LOGJOG decided that it should monitor the effects of the implementation of the Commonwealth Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act . What was the cost of the consultant commissioned to provide that advice?

MR LYNCH -The cost of the consultancy was $19,000.

SENATOR CALVERT -I note that you say here that the consultant generally considered that there was little rationale or support for change to current arrangements. Having said that, have you had a chance yet to consider the consultant's recommendations?

MR LYNCH -The report of the consultant was considered at the Local Government Ministers Conference earlier this year. As a result of that, the decision was taken at the Ministers Conference to continue monitoring the Act.

I think it is fair to say that in the discussion on the report at the conference there was a degree of disappointment that the report had not been a little more adventurous in the way it approached the issue. I suspect that came largely from the methodology of the report, which largely involved discussions with the grants commissions-which are steeped in the present system-rather than looking too widely for other ways of considering the issues . It is a matter which the Local Government Minister's Conference has asked local government officials to continue to monitor. We will be meeting next week in Melbourne, and that item is on the agenda for further discussion.

SENATOR CALVERT -Is that consultant's report a confidential document or is it available to the Committee?

MR LYNCH -No, it is not a confidential document.

SENATOR CALVERT -Do you think you could make a copy available to either Senator Parer or me? I am sure it would help this Committee.

MR LYNCH -Certainly.

SENATOR CALVERT -I have a rather parochial question. What was the financial assistance given to Tasmanian State and local government for the modernisation process, if any?

MR LYNCH -Are you asking how much money was given?

SENATOR CALVERT -Yes. Was it in fact given?

MR CALVERT -The amount involved is $80,000.

SENATOR CALVERT -Do you have any particular views on modernisation? Would you be encouraging other States to head down that track?

MR CALVERT -In the case of modernisation, we have been careful to make sure that we contribute to the process in Tasmania in a way which, from our point of view, has been even-handed. We have not funded either the local government associated with the MAT or the State Government separately. The funding has been provided to a group comprising MAT, the Commission and the State Department. They have agreed on what projects are worth funding in the context of the modernisation exercise. Once a joint agreement has been reached, we have been prepared to contribute to the funding rather than, if you like, contribute to what might otherwise be a partisan approach to the issues.

This is a novel approach for us. It is the first time we have done something quite like this. One of the reasons why we decided to do it was to see whether the model proved to be productive and beneficial and whether there might be value in taking that kind of approach in other States.

SENATOR CALVERT -I know that it is only early days, but there has already been an indication of some municipalities amalgamating and taking up some of the options that were put forward in the report. Do you have any plans to promote that modernisation process in other States, if it is successful?

MR LYNCH -There are reforms occurring in local government in a variety of ways in almost every State in Australia. It just so happens that `modernisation process' is the term used in Tasmania, and we are at a stage at the moment where we can contribute. Western Australia has had a series of discussion papers going on for the last couple of years and is about to bring in a new Act.

New South Wales in recent weeks has announced reforms there which are subject to consultation at the moment. So there are different processes of reform occurring in most States at the moment.

SENATOR CALVERT -I think South Australia has been quite innovative in some of its reforms, too.

MR LYNCH -It has certainly taken an unusual approach. What we see, though, is that there is a common theme through many of those reforms that we are supportive of in terms of accountability, efficiency and micro-economic reform measures, all of which we see as being worth supporting within local government.

SENATOR CALVERT -It does not matter what they call it; it is commonsense, really.