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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7222

Mr BIDGOOD (2:25 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. What new initiatives has the government taken to build a partnership with local government through the second plenary meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government?

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) —I thank the member for Dawson for his question and note that he was with the mayors from his local community last night. He had a better evening later on than I did, so we will get that out of the way early—as a Queenslander, he had a better end of the evening than I did.

Everyone last night at the Australian Council of Local Government dinner and today at the forum had a very productive second plenary meeting. This is the next step in the new partnership that we are forging between the national government and local government. Local communities rely increasingly upon local government to deliver the services that they need. Every one of the ministers along the front bench participated in the ACLG forums that we held and the subgroups that were held today and yesterday. We heard that increasingly local government is providing much more than rates and rubbish. They are increasingly providing a great number of services critical to the quality of life in local communities.

They are rolling out the $800 million Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, which is so important in supporting jobs in local communities and stimulating local economies. It will provide a long-term legacy for these communities. The Prime Minister announced a measure today, included in our budget, of an additional $220 million for local government through this program. This brings our investment since last November to over $1 billion.

We know that at a time when the government is committed to cushioning the impact of the global economic recession, local capital works that can be got going quickly—which are shovel ready—are ideal as a measure to support jobs in communities. Indeed, every single local government area—regardless of political leadership, city or country or state, big or small—has benefited from this important program. Some 3,300 projects have been funded already, with many of those projects already completed. Work is progressing. I am advised that some 88 per cent of projects around the country have work underway right now.

I conclude by paying particular tribute to the two national awards for excellence that were presented by the Prime Minister at the Australian local government awards dinner last night. The large council award went to Newcastle City Council for their ClimateCam International Test Laboratory, a world-leading program which has now been copied around the world. The great city of Newcastle is represented by my colleague the member for Newcastle. It takes that regional city to the globe and shows once again that it is, as it is in so many areas, an innovative world leader as a regional city.

I want to pay particular tribute to the Carpentaria Shire Council, which is in the electorate of Kennedy. They received the small council award. Their program was entitled ‘Domestic violence—it’s not our game’. What has occurred there is that the local NRL football team has received sponsorship and support through the local council—this was certainly supported, I am sure, by the member for Kennedy—under the theme ‘Domestic violence—it’s not our game’. It was found that this community had the worst rates of domestic violence in Queensland and that a very effective way of getting that message out to the community is with this sponsorship. The key outcomes include a 55 per cent drop in domestic violence incidents, a 64 per cent drop in breaches of domestic violence orders and a cultural shift whereby domestic violence is unacceptable. That is a critical example.

The young Indigenous men who play for this NRL team were so proud to receive this award from the Prime Minister. These proud Indigenous men will be on The Footy Show tonight. That is a great thing—getting that message about domestic violence out there to communities. Local government has played a critical role in this and so many other community activities. I pay tribute to them. I thank the local government mayors and shire presidents for the way that they participated in what was a very successful second meeting of the Australian Council of Local Government.