Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Labor's plan for local government: flexible programs and real partnerships.



Download PDFDownload PDF

  Australian Labor Party   National ALP   Back

Sue Mackay - Labor's Plan For Local Government: Flexible Programs And Real Partnerships http://www.alp.org.au//media/1001/smmslgp301001.html Wednesday, 31 October 2001

ALP News Statements

Labor's Plan For Local Government: Flexible Programs And Real Partnerships Sue Mackay - Shadow Minister for Local Government

Media Statement - 30 October 2001

Kim Beazley's Plan for Local Government was launched in Craigieburn today by Shadow Minister for Local Government, Senator Sue Mackay.

"Federal Labor's policy for strengthening the local government sector, fostering real partnerships between the three levels of government and recognising the key role of local government in our communities includes:

Constitutional Recognition: this overarching goal is more than just a symbolic aim, as security and many practical outcomes flow from constitutional status for local government. ●

Reinvigoration of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG): COAG will be the principal forum for greater inter-governmental co-operation, with local government once again recognised as an equal partner working alongside State and Federal governments.

●

Flexible Programs: that recognise the different challenges facing councils in both regional and urban Australia, as well as those 'interface' councils that sit between and have been ineligible for much of the Coalition's limited 'rural-only' program funding.

●

Supporting Alliances: between similarly placed councils across Australia so that ideas can be exchanged to encourage the development of innovative approaches to local problems. ●

Access Australia Strategy: inviting local government to play a key role in improving access to essential government information and services for all Australians. ●

Flood Mitigation: Labor's $52m Regional and Urban Flood Mitigation Program returns the basis ●

of flood mitigation funding to the 2:2:1 formula - two fifths Federal, two fifths State and one fifth local government contributions, compared to the Coalition's 1:1:1 formula.

"I know that local government has been frustrated by the bureaucracy associated with the Coalition's Regional Development Programs. At present, regional communities have to apply to three different agencies, through three different programs, only to be told that they don't quite fit the criteria.

"Labor knows that one size does not fit all. Programs such as Regional Solutions have not even been available to Interface Councils, even though they contain rural areas and are in need of funding for local projects.

"Labor's more flexible approach will include the following:

Regional Development Strategies: to support many local governments' roles in the regions:

National Regional Development Strategy: based on a new partnership between the three levels of government, the research sector, regional development organisations, industry and communities.

●

Regional Development Program: providing more funding assistance to projects supported by local government. ●

Regional Infrastructure Kickstart: concessional loans available to local government for infrastructure. Up to $350 million in loans will be dedicated to Enterprise Zones and open to applications from bodies including local government.

●

Reforming National Competition Policy: Labor will revitalise and reform National Competition Policy, addressing the concerns that local governments and communities across Australia have about the Coalition's implementation of NCP.

●

"In contrast to these initiatives, the Coalition's record is a shameful one - the impact of the GST on the cost of services that local governments provide and the freezing of the financial assistance grants in Costello's first budget has cost councils $75 million alone.

"The Coalition's relationship with local government remains handicapped by the philosophy expressed by its former Minister for Local Government that the sector is just a 'creature of the states'.

"Over the past three years as Shadow Minister for Local Government I have travelled across the country and met with a large number of local councils to discuss local issues and Labor's commitment to remedying the Coalition's neglect of the sector.

"Today, Labor outlines our vision for a stronger role for local government and delivers the detail for that commitment," said Senator Mackay.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

  Australian Labor Party   National ALP   Back

Kim Beazley's Plan for Local Government http://www.alp.org.au//policy/regions/local_government.html Wednesday, 31 October 2001

Kim Beazley's Plan for Local Government

Overview ● The Howard Government's Failures ● Broken Promises ● Kim Beazley's Plan for Local Government

A Federal Labor Government and the Local Government Sector ❍ Creating Alliances between Councils ❍ Access Australia ❍ Local Government Service Agreements Feasibility Study ❍

Countrylink Australia ❍ Urban and Regional Flood Mitigation Program ❍ Enterprise Zones: A Boost for Struggling Regions ❍ National Competition Policy: Cleaning up the Mess ❍

Labor's Regional Development Program ❍ Infrastructure ❍

●

Costing ● References ●

Overview

Labor's vision for regional services, territories and local government is based on the fundamental principle that all levels of government will work together to ensure the most efficient and effective delivery of services to the communities they serve.

This vision seeks greater co-operation between Federal, state and Local Governments than has existed during one hundred years of Federation.

Under Labor the stage will be set for all three levels of government to work together towards this unique goal.

Labor's continuing commitment to Local Government means councils are poised to build stronger

communities with the energy and potential offered by a new millennium and new political opportunities.

The unique political opportunity that awaits Local Government across Australia is the chance to achieve its goals in partnership with cooperative Federal and State Governments.

Fundamental to this plan is Labor's commitment to the Constitutional recognition of Local Government. Labor knows that bipartisanship is essential for this to take place, but believes it is an essential step in forming a genuine three-way partnership between all levels of government in Australia.

A high priority for Labor is the reinvigoration of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), as the principal forum for inter-governmental co-operation. Local government will once again be recognised as an equal partner with State and Federal governments.

Labor firmly believes this process should start with the constitutional recognition for Local government. Labor also believes that this is a matter deserving of bi-partisan support.

Coalition criticism of State governments will not change or improve anything about existing inter-governmental relationships.

The real issue we face is continuing efforts to bring our three levels of government together. Our energy is better spent on improving the partnerships between each level of government.

Constitutional recognition of Local government will allow us to better meet the service delivery challenge that our communities have handed us.

Labor recognises the central role of Local government on the quality of life of all Australians. Whether environmental, recreational or core-municipal - the range of services Local government supplies is myriad.

The size and diversity of the Local government sector means there is virtually no area in which Local government does not engage in service delivery or social and economic involvement. This is in addition to the important regulatory role played in planning and development and environmental management.

The range of services provided by Local government has multiplied. The energy and vision of Australians working in the Local government area is striking. Their commitment to the community is strong.

Strengthening the Local government sector is therefore the key to improving living standards for all Australians, wherever you live. Local government delivers at a community level. Local councils know the roads, the footpaths and the street corners of our everyday lives.

At a Federal level, Local government needs a "champion". Local government needs a voice to speak up for it in Federal Parliament, as a reminder of all of their special roles in our local communities. In the past, federal Labor governments have set the benchmark for this role, and Federal Labor under Kim Beazley will do so, again.

The Howard Government's Failures

National Competition Policy has been implemented by the Coalition without any concern for how it has impacted on local communities, especially those in regional Australia. The Coalition took a deliberately

narrow interpretation of national competition principles. This resulted in poor economics and bad public policy. The Coalition has regularly handed over decision-making to the bureaucrats. As a result regional communities have been weakened and jobs have been destroyed.

This was not the original vision of National Competition Policy. Labor now has a comprehensive package to remedy the situation, and knows benefits from increased competition can be retained whilst public interest principles are strengthened.

The withdrawal of Commonwealth services from rural and regional communities has put increased pressure on the level of government closest to the community, Local government, but the Howard Government has failed to meet its mutual obligation to support and fund the Local government sector.

Local government is still suffering the effects of the freeze in the Financial Assistance Grants escalation factor - approximately $75 million has now been lost in funding to the Local government sector. This is on top of the impact of the GST on local government, which has indirectly added to their financial and administrative burden.

Broken Promises

Financial Assistance Grants To Local Government

Prior to the 1996 election, the Coalition promised to "maintain financial assistance grants for Local government at a level at least as high as currently programmed."(1) Again at the 1998 Election, the promise was: "Annual escalation factors, based on adjustments for inflation and population growth, will continue." (2)

In the 1997-1998 financial year the Government froze the usual annual increase, called the escalation factors, in Financial Assistance Grants to Local Government. The result is a reduction of $15 million a year since then. In total, that adds up to approximately $75 million of lost Federal revenue to Local government since the Coalition came to power in 1996.

Local Government And National Competition Policy

The Coalition's broken promise was that local circumstances and community interests would be paramount in the implementation of National Competition Policy.

The experience of the past five and a half years has shown the complete opposite. National Competition Policy has been implemented without regard to its impact on local communities. Belatedly, the government has started to recognise this, but even so, Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson's recent promised "enhancements" will do little to change the Government's implementation of this policy.

The Coalition sat back while five years of pain was inflicted:

It sat back while Jeff Kennett imposed his ideological obsession with Compulsory Competitive Tendering on councils across Victoria. ●

It allowed Government control of the NCP process to drift, by not convening the Council of Australian Governments regularly to oversee the implementation of national competition policy. ●

The consistent application of the public interest test has been neglected, which has adversely ●

affected councils contracting out services.

Local Government And The GST

In 1998 the Coalition made an undertaking to Local government: "that most council charges will be GST-free." (Coalition's 1998 "Sustaining Local Communities" policy, page 2.) Lynton Crosby, Liberal federal Director, in a letter to Local government on behalf of the Prime Minister on 17 September 1998, promised that: "The non-commercial activities of government will be outside the scope of the GST. This means that where a service is provided free of charge or for a nominal charge, the GST will not apply."

However, after the 1998 election the Government said the GST would apply to all Local government services deemed to be "commercial" where a nominal fee is charged. This means a GST is now charged on services such as swimming-pool admission prices, parking meter fees, library membership fees, recreation centre hire fees and senior citizen transport.

The Coalition also claimed that: "The abolition of wholesale sales tax alone will benefit Local government by around $70 million a year." (3) However, this figure has never been substantiated, despite repeated questioning by Labor.

Councils themselves were exempt from paying wholesale sales tax, but now have the extra administrative costs of collecting and forwarding GST, then submitting claims for the extra tax paid.

At the time of the GST package, the Coalition's other plan was to divest the Federal Government of any responsibility for direct Federal assistance to Local government, and put all responsibility on to the States.

That would have left it up to each State government to give a proportion of GST revenue to Local government and removed all certainty in funding for councils. Labor forced the Coalition to maintain Federal funding of Local government.

Local Government's Community Services Role

In 1996 the Coalition promised that they would: "consult Local government on the objectives, terms and conditions of new and existing specific purpose programs to be administered through Local government."

Furthermore, the Coalition also promised to "liaise with the Australian Local Government Association, State and Territory Local Government Associations and the States on how relevant Federal programs can be delivered more efficiently at local level." (4)

However, in the past five and a half years, the Coalition has run down the main avenue to Local government in having a national voice and working in partnership with both State and Federal Governments, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). COAG has met infrequently, on an ad hoc basis, and not as a properly constituted vehicle for partnerships between governments.

Furthermore, the Howard Government has increased, not reduced, the administrative complexity of programs because councils must now collect the GST on many services.

Cost shifting from the Federal government to the Local government sector has continued to increase.

Federal government support for the administration of Local government has declined.

Local Government Development Program

In 1996 and 1998 the Coalition made promises to continue to support the development of Local government. In 1996 the Coalition promised to "retain the Local Government Development Program". (5) Again in 1998 the promise was to continue this program, proclaiming that: "through its $5.4 million Local Government Development Program the Coalition has supported many initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local councils." (6)

The Local Government Development Program was introduced by Labor and was budgeted at $12 million a year. The Howard Government reduced that to $5.4 million a year by 1998-99, and then abolished the program. The replacement program ended on 30 June 2001.

The Coalition has not announced any replacement program to support the efficiency initiatives of Local government.

Constitutional Recognition Of Local Government

Despite promises made in 1996 and 1998, the Coalition has not made any moves towards constitutional recognition of Local government. "Constitutional recognition of Local government will be considered by the People's Constitutional Convention, to be held under a Liberal and National Government in 1997. Local government will be recognised at the convention." (7) "In recognition of the importance of community democracy and decentralised decision making, the Coalition will actively participate in any public debate on the question of Constitutional recognition for Local government." (8)

In an address to the Queensland Local Government Association Conference in September 2001, Labor called for the Coalition to adopt a bipartisan position on this issue.

Despite the Coalition's promises, recognition for Local government was not discussed or included on the agenda of the People's Constitutional Convention. The Coalition has not supported recognition of Local government in the Constitution, repeatedly describing Local government as "a creature of the States".

No Urban Policies

No national strategies to address urban sprawl, transport or air quality have been introduced by the Howard Government. The Coalition attitude has been to 'leave it to the States'. This is despite a 1996 Coalition promise that: "A Liberal and National Government will build a partnership with Local and State Government and the private sector to achieve more liveable cities and towns". (9)

Even worse, Stage 2 of the successful and highly regarded "Better Cities" program was slashed by the Coalition and No new policies directed to assist urbanised areas in cities and towns have been proposed.

Kim Beazley's Plan for Local Government

A Federal Labor Government And The Local Government Sector

There are four elements to Labor's plan for strengthening Local government.

First, Labor will work towards the constitutional recognition of Local government. Secondly, the revitalisation of COAG will be the cornerstone to Labor's "new Federalism". Thirdly, a national audit and an evaluation of the provision of services by the three levels of government will be undertaken. Finally, increased capacity building for Local government will be facilitated through the National Office of Local Government.

Constitutional recognition for Local Government

Labor's "new federalism" entails fostering real partnerships between the three levels of government. A fundamental element of this theme is Labor's long-standing commitment to the Constitutional recognition of Local government.

Our history shows Constitutional change is never a simple task - it requires bipartisan support. To that end, Labor calls on the Coalition to support this policy.

A revitalised role for Local Government in COAG

Federal Labor will work cooperatively with Local government and the States to share ideas, to energise the interaction between governments, to cut duplication and waste, and to encourage new ways of working together.

The important first step in this process is to revive and reinvigorate the currently moribund Council of Australian Governments.

Labor is thoroughly committed to COAG. Part of this revitalisation of COAG will include ensuring Local government is given a role as a full member of COAG.

In the past, Labor Governments through the COAG process provided national leadership on vital improvements of physical infrastructure - for example, the development of national electricity and gas grids.

Under the Howard Government, this important forum for cooperative national policies has become virtually irrelevant.

A renewed COAG approach will guide Labor's strategies for the delivery of regional government services. It will also govern the way we face up to the myriad of national challenges.

Foundations for New Federalism - a whole of Government Review and National Audit of Services Provision

Labor's vision for a new Federalism will be underpinned by a comprehensive review of the relationship between the three levels of government.

Labor will undertake a complete review and evaluation of the relationship between the Commonwealth, State and Local levels of government. This review will form part of the foundations for Labor's vision for a new federalism. This review will be funded through departmental running costs.

As part of the Foundations for a New Federalism review, a national audit of government services and infrastructure will be commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The national audit will survey Federal, State and Local government infrastructure and services. Such an audit will provide information on which to rebuild and recognise Commonwealth-State-Local government relations.

This audit is an essential starting point to maximise the cooperative relationship between the Commonwealth and Local government, and to achieve co-operation between the three levels of government.

Labor will rebuild the relationship between Federal and Local government from the ground up, something long overdue.

National Office of Local Government

A strengthened role for The National Office of Local Government (NOLG) will assist in the development of the Local government sector in order to build the capacity of the sector to deliver quality outcomes to local communities.

In addition, NOLG will undertake itself, or commission, a range of key projects including:

benchmarking in Local government; ● pursuit of harmonisation of State and local planning regulations; ● exploration of direct democracy programs (community participation) through Local government initiatives; ●

dissemination of international best practice in Local government; and ● developing greater funding cooperation between State programs and Commonwealth programs. ●

Labor believes these crucial first steps will create the framework within which its long-term vision for a "new Federalism" can be achieved.

Creating Alliances Between Councils

Labor will work to foster new alliances between similarly placed councils, so that knowledge sharing can take place, so that ideas can be exchanged and innovative and successful approaches to local problems can serve as models to other councils.

Creative solutions to local problems, of which there are many in local councils, which have been successfully applied in one council might be of enormous benefit to another council in a different region or State.

There is no need to continually reinvent the wheel every time a new situation or issue emerges. Sharing means we can all move forward into the future as partners, aided and assisted by the Federal Government, to build and foster these connections and networks between councils.

Labor will work towards providing the means and opportunities for these alliances of councils to be created and developed.

Access Australia

Labor's vision for services delivery is based on the concept of services alliances across the three levels of

government. The cornerstone of this is Access Australia, which will be the umbrella for the delivery of regional services, and will be located in existing institutions, such as Australia Post.

The key is flexible responses to needs. Labor's emphasis is on the provision of services by the most suitable means available. Labor intends to build on, and not replace, current services. Labor will guarantee the continuation of current government services, and will guarantee that there will be no reduction of current service provision. This plan also has the potential for extension to urban areas.

First, Access Australia will provide information and transaction services via existing institutions, beginning with Australia Post. Labor will work to extend services provided under the Access Australia umbrella to other federal agencies, such as Centrelink offices.

Secondly, Labor will work to extend the provision of Access Australia services to State and local government outlets, and to Rural Transaction Centres.

Thirdly, Labor will work towards service alliances between Federal, State and local governments, to deliver transaction and information services from all three levels of government via outlets such as post offices, Centrelink, State "one-stop-shops", Rural Transaction Centres and local council offices.

Labor's vision for regional services will also enhance the provision of services online, as this trend develops across government.

Basic services

Access Australia will start by providing basic services to rural and regional communities through Australia Post outlets. These services will include personal banking - through the extension of GiroPost to all postal outlets - postal services, Medicare Easyclaim and phone/fax facilities.

Australia Post has more than 2,500 outlets located in rural and remote areas. This is a powerful network capable of delivering face-to-face and online services to communities without ready access to many Commonwealth, State and Local government agencies, services and information.

By using Australia Post's network, this approach to the provision of services provides communities with long-term certainty. It is also a more efficient use of government resources to increase the range of services that can be offered within existing infrastructure, such as Australia Post, rather than recreating this infrastructure at an additional cost.

Labor will consult with local communities to identify the services they need and will ensure that Australia Post plays a critical role in delivering existing and future services.

Labor will begin the Access Australia program with Australia Post, but will quickly establish pilot projects for Access Australia in other Federal Government outlets, in particular Centrelink offices.

Underpinning Access Australia are Labor's commitments on Australia Post:

Australia Post remains in public hands; ● No further deregulation of Australia's postal industry will occur; ● Australia Post would continue to provide current postal, retail and financial services, including GiroPost and Internet bill paying services; and ●

Australia Post will be a platform for the delivery of services, including emerging digital data ●

services, particularly to rural and regional Australia.

Extension of Access Australia to State and Local Government shopfronts

Labor will extend the reach of Access Australia by working with local government and with the States that provide "one-stop-shops", such as the Queensland Government Agency Program (QGAP) and NSW Government Access Centres, to extend federal Access Australia services to these outlets. This will be initially done through pilot projects, and will build on the first steps that have already been made in the direction of greater integration.

Service alliances between Federal, State and Local Governments

Labor will also work toward the goal of providing federal, State and local government transaction services via single outlets, whether they be a post office, a Rural Transaction Centre, a local council office, a State government "one stop shop" or a Centrelink office. That would mean, for example, that an individual could pay local council rates, renew state car registration or gain access to federal Centrelink services - all in the one place.

Federal Labor will organise the coordination of service delivery between the three levels of government.

This coordination of service delivery between Federal, State and local governments will mean that many communities will have several outlets providing these integrated services.

Rural Transaction Centres

Labor will continue the Rural Transaction Centres (RTC) program, as one option for returning services to regional communities. However, with only 30 or so RTCs in place, the program cannot offer the number of outlets, nor the long-term certainty, that can be achieved through Labor's approach.

Australia's 750 local councils also provide a broad range of infrastructure, services and expertise, and Labor will examine the feasibility of extending federal services through fee for service contracts with local governments.

Local Government Service Agreements Feasibility Study

Labor will examine the feasibility of extending federal services in urban and regional Australia by entering fee-for-service contracts with councils. These contracts could include employment services, legal aid service and information technology services.

The study will examine the feasibility of this proposal filling the gaps in services, and enhancing existing service delivery across Australia, by using existing infrastructure.

In investigating this plan, Labor has the following objectives:

To improve federal services cost-effectively via local government; and ● Provide greater support for local government, so often the mainstays of local communities. ●

In exploring the feasibility of Local Government Service Agreements, Labor recognises the problems councils face over cost shifting, and unfunded mandates - taking on new tasks without adequate funding. Labor also recognises the potential of this proposal to provide federal services that are tailored to local

needs, using the local knowledge and infrastructure of local councils.

If, after investigation, this program were to be implemented, councils would identify the federal services needed, then make an application to the Federal Government to provide them.

The Federal Government would only subcontract a service to a council if that service were not otherwise available locally. There would, of course, be probity requirements, performance benchmarks and so on for each Local Government Service Agreement.

Countrylink Australia

Easy and simple access to information about Federal programs is a basic requirement of rural and regional communities. Countrylink Australia currently meets this need. Labor will continue this service, and will examine ways of expanding and improving services in the future.

Countrylink Australia provides non-metropolitan communities with a personalised, free-call information service about federal programs and services. It provides a "single access" information service for regional Australia.

Countrylink also compiles The Rural Book, a guide to Federal Government services and programs. Other services include the Countrylink Australia Shopfront, which visits regional shows and field days, and the Countrylink Australia Community Information Stands, which are located with regional community groups as a local source of information.

Labor will retain Countrylink Australia and an expanded range of information will be added to the service.

Urban and Regional Flood Mitigation Program

Labor recognises the importance of flood prevention measures in many regions of Australia. The main program is the Urban and Regional Flood Mitigation Program, at $70 million over four years. Under Labor, funding will return to the 2:2:1 formula for sharing the cost of flood works that prevailed under the former Labor Government - two fifths Federal, two fifths State and one fifth local government contributions.

This means a larger financial commitment from federal Labor, in contrast to the Coalition's 1:1:1. Labor believes this has placed an unfairly heavy burden on Local government. Under Labor's formula councils will take on a fifth of the cost.

As well as funding urban flood works on the less generous 1:1:1 basis, the Howard Government, until this financial year, did not provide any money at all for flood prevention works in urban areas, having abolished the previous Labor Government's urban flood mitigation programs. Labor's plan is a firm commitment to urban as well as regional areas of Australia that are prone to flooding.

Flood damage is a huge cost to the community, averaging $315 million a year in damage, or 29 per cent of the annual average. As well as the financial cost to the community, there is also the impact of floods on our homes, our treasured possessions and lives. That is why prevention is so important.

Labor's flood mitigation program will assist State and local Governments and local agencies, to build

cost-effective flood mitigation works and other measures in urban and regional Australia. The program will involve identifying and analysing the risk, assessing management options - including mitigation works and measures - and implementing effective solutions.

Projects will be aimed at reducing long-term risk and should promote permanent change.

The Urban and Regional Flood Mitigation Program will require matching funding contributions from State/Territory Governments and contributions from Local government.

All projects funded under the program will need to be consistent with local and regional flood management plans. In addition, they will need to be consistent with relevant state government flood management plans and with regional natural resource management planning.

Organisations eligible to apply include:

Local agencies that are responsible for floodplain management and flood mitigation works, like local councils, catchment management boards, river improvement trusts, community councils, incorporated associations or Aboriginal Land Councils, or a combination of these; and

●

State Government agencies, where that agency is the relevant responsible agency. ●

Enterprise Zones: A Boost For Struggling Regions

Labor will address the jobs crisis facing many regions as a matter of national priority.

Under the "hands-off" approach of the Howard Government, too many regional communities have suffered persistently high unemployment and growing economic insecurity.

Labor believes a new commitment is needed, involving active government policy, to support these regions to strengthen their capabilities and create local opportunities and jobs.

Labor will designate a number of economically and socially disadvantaged regions as Enterprise Zones, as the central element in a national effort to reduce regional inequalities and improve national cohesion.

Eligibility for Enterprise Zone status will be determined by objective criteria such as gross regional product and high unemployment, and funding will be available for one to three years.

Funding will be assigned on a regional basis, and will be linked to a community-driven regional strategy as developed by Local government and other regional groups.

These regional strategies will be developed by the most appropriate local mechanism, as determined by the region itself.

Regional strategies will draw on a combination of infrastructure and economic development support, and will focus on sustainable job creation.

Under Labor's $500 million Enterprise Zones initiative, lagging regions will be able to access $150 million from the Regional Development Program and a further $350 million in concessional loans under the Regional Infrastructure Kickstart scheme.

Labor recognises the work of the NSW Shires Association and the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants for their work in developing this concept.

National Competition Policy: Cleaning Up The Mess

The implementation of National Competition Policy under the Coalition has had a devastating impact on many local councils and the communities they represent. The awarding of contracts on the basis of price alone has not led to long-term cost savings for local government, and, quite often, local businesses have been driven out of the market.

Labor has a comprehensive plan to reform National Competition Policy (NCP).

Labor will revitalise the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), ensuring that elected governments oversee NCP.

Labor will strengthen the public interest test and ensure that its application reflects community concerns. Every application of NCP will be tested properly against the full set of public interest criteria. Foremost among these criteria are economic and regional development (including employment and investment growth), social welfare and equity issues.

Labor recognises that NCP does not require Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT). CCT is a creation of the Coalition, and requires all services supplied to government to go to tender. This is the ultimate example of the Coalition's belief in competition for competition's sake.

Labor will also work with all levels of government to ensure that if, after the full application of a strong public interest test, it is decided to put a service or function out to tender, these tenders are not necessarily awarded on the basis of price alone.

Labor will develop best practice models for tendering. The range of criteria, in addition to price, will include regional development, employment, training and environmental impacts.

Labor will also work to restructure the NCC, to make it more representative of the needs of regional communities.

Labor's reforms to National Competition Policy will work for communities, not just the economy.

Labor's Regional Development Program

Labor understands that a stronger commitment to listening to our regions must be backed up with action.

For the past five and a half years, too many communities have seen opportunities pass them by because the Howard Government was not prepared to back local people and their ideas.

Labor's $215 million Regional Development Program will support local people to drive local agendas, and confront the jobs crisis that exists in many regional communities, and local government will play a key role in this process.

Wasteful duplication of regional assistance will be eliminated, and Labor will make it easier to deal with government.

At present, regional communities can apply to three different agencies, through three different programs, only to be told that they don't quite fit the criteria.

Labor will turn this approach to regional assistance on its head, through the Office for the Regions and a flexible new Regional Development Program.

The Regional Development Program will be responsive to local needs, and focused on meeting the needs of communities rather than the needs of bureaucrats.

Labor knows that one size does not fit all. The Regional Development Program will provide flexible support, tailored to local circumstances.

The Regional Development Program will offer a menu of support items and brokered services, addressing issues such as:

Community infrastructure; ● Regional skill shortages; ● Industry support, such as value-adding, clustering, marketing and export enhancement; ● Technology support and business advice, especially for small businesses; ●

Sustainable development strategies; ● Leadership development; ● Locally-based support officers; and ● Community development strategies. ●

Projects supported under the Regional Development Program will need to be consistent with sustainable development principles, best practice and regional priorities.

Local government and local business enterprises will play a pivotal role in the process for the development of projects under this program.

Projects will also need to demonstrate funding contributions from other sources, such as State or local government and the private sector.

All projects supported under the Regional Development Program will be monitored, with lessons linked to the evolving knowledge base of the Learning Regions Resource.

Infrastructure

World-class infrastructure is a fundamental building block for the economic development of our regions, and is a responsibility of governments at all levels. Labor recognises that local government has a strong need for better access to infrastructure funding.

National Infrastructure Advisory Council

Labor's National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) will promote a smarter approach to national infrastructure provision and maintenance.

The NIAC will help to remove the politics from infrastructure decisions, and will support the Office for the Regions in promoting the smarter development of our regions.

The functions of the NIAC will include:

advising on generic policy issues affecting the infrastructure sector; ● assisting in the development of intelligent decision-support tools; ● examining options to encourage private sector involvement in infrastructure development; ● monitoring the implementation of national and regional infrastructure support; and ●

identifying the opportunities and gaps in national infrastructure development. ●

The NIAC will also support strategies for infrastructure information collection and dissemination, including support for an annual Infrastructure Report Card.

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council will ensure that national infrastructure incentives are directed to areas of national interest, with support targeted on key projects of national and regional significance.

National Infrastructure Kickstart

National Infrastructure Kickstart will provide incentives for private sector infrastructure projects of national significance.

This will revamp the flawed Infrastructure Borrowings Tax Offset Scheme, through the following changes:

Additional priority will be accorded to projects that benefit designated Enterprise Zones. ● Rather than being restricted to land transport, the scheme will be available to all forms of sustainable infrastructure, including transport, energy, water, and bundled projects; and ●

Funding will be available over a flexible time frame, rather than the current fixed five years. ●

National Infrastructure Kickstart will involve a transparent assessment framework, developed on advice from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

All existing commitments under the Infrastructure Borrowings Tax Offset Scheme will be fully honoured.

Regional Infrastructure Kickstart

Regional Infrastructure Kickstart will provide concessional loans to support infrastructure projects of regional significance.

This scheme will be open to infrastructure applications from local governments, regional investment funds, and other reputable bodies. Proponents of regional infrastructure projects will be able to apply for a concessional loan if they can demonstrate that their project contributes significantly to regional economic development.

$350 million in loans will be made available for dedicated Enterprise Zones.

Regional Infrastructure Kickstart will support the building or expansion of infrastructure such as:

Transport (roads, bridges, public transport, railways, airports, ports); ● Commercial (warehouses, cool rooms); ● Information and Communications (servers, powers, cabling); and ●

Agriculture (dams, fencing, bulk storage, etc). ●

To be eligible for support, project proponents will need to demonstrate consistency with the region's development priorities, consideration of best practice, and funding leveraged from other sources.

The scheme will involve a transparent assessment framework, developed on advice from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

Costing

  01-02 02-03 03-04 04-05 Total

Australian Access Centre (1) 0 20.0 8.4 0 28.4

Countrylink 0 0 0 0 0

Local Government Sector 0 0 0 0 0

Urban and Flood Mitigation (2) 6.0 12.0 12.0 12.0 42.0

TOTAL (millions) (3) 6.0 32.0 20.4 12.0 70.4

(1) This initiative was announced in Kim Beazley's Plan for our Regions.

(2) This initiative was announced in Kim Beazley's Plan for our Regions.

(3) The net cost of these policies is as follows:

01-02 02-03 03-04 04-05 Total

0 0 0 0 0

References

(1) Coalition 1996. Local Government Policy, p5 (2) Coalition 1998. "Sustaining Local Communities" policy, p11 (3) Coalition 1998. "Sustaining Local Communities" policy, p3 (4) Coalition 1996. Local Government Policy, p6 (5) Coalition 1996. Local Government Policy, p5 (6) Coalition 1998 "Sustaining Local Communities" policy, p6 (7) Coalition 1996. Local Government Policy, p2 (8) Coalition 1998. "Sustaining Local Communities" policy, p9 (9) Coalition 1996. Local Government Policy, p 8

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.