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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 973

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (11:11): I support the general thrust of the member for Lyne's motion. While I would not specifically single out the GST as the revenue source, it is clear that local government does indeed need access to growth funding. Local government rates keep going up and up and that is hurting families. It is clear that there needs to be a better way of funding councils to deliver the local infrastructure that is vitally needed in the community.

There are limited options for councils to raise revenue. I have some detailed experience, having been a local government councillor for the better part of six years. About 83 per cent of the revenue that councils have to play with across the nation is their own sourced revenue. Rates make up about 37 per cent of that, and that is a direct slug on many families out there. We have charges for goods and services, and increasingly councils are moving towards a user-pays system for basic services. For example, a person dumping a ute load of rubbish at the tip is now charged for doing that. This is what councils are moving to, and 29 per cent of their revenue comes from those charges. Other charges, such as fines and developer contributions, make up around 14 per cent of their revenue. Again, that is a hit on the community. It is indirect in some cases, such as developer contributions, which flow through to the cost of owning a new home. These are the sources that councils currently get their finance from. Every time that new infrastructure, or even maintenance of existing structure, is required they look to ratchet up those fees.

I say you cannot just do that. I remember being in a private council meeting where we were looking at the budget numbers and the list of infrastructure that was needed. It turned out that there needed to be a 13 per cent rate rise to fund only what was required. Rates were going up to about $2½ thousand per household. My reaction was, 'When do we hit the limit here?' It gets to the stage where you cannot charge the community any more. You will get a situation where people just cannot afford to live in their own homes. There were blank stares and nobody knew the answer to that question, because infrastructure costs keep going up and up. In Queensland, 88 per cent of council funding comes from own sourced revenue. That is a direct result of the state government pulling out. They had subsidies in place for water and sewerage infrastructure. But they removed those subsidies, so now that burden falls on homeowners. There is a lot of uncertainty for councils as a result, because they just do not know in situations like that, where the states pull out. That really stuffs up forward budgeting. About 8½ per cent of funding to local government comes from the federal government and about 8½ per cent comes from the states, but that goes up and down. There needs to be some certainty.

With regard to the constitutional recognition issue, I disagree with the motion before the House. Constitutional recognition is vitally important. The Pape case showed that there was great uncertainty about direct federal funding to local government. In fact, George Williams, renowned legal expert, says that there is no constitutional validity for it. That is ultimately deserved and it will stop situations like that which we had in Queensland, where the Beattie government, with the support of the current Premier, Anna Bligh, and the then local government minister, Andrew Fraser, rode roughshod over local communities and amalgamated councils left, right and centre, where there was no community of interest for those councils. There is no better reason than that than to have constitutional recognition. So, to sum up, there needs to be growth funding— (Time expired)