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Cunningham hypocrisy on local government funding.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

W I L S O N T U C K E Y M P

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CUNNINGHAM HYPOCRISY ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING

Nita Cunningham is guilty of massive hypocrisy in her response to my proposals for the allocation of Federal financial assistance for Queensland Local Councils.

The Minister’s crocodile tears are in stark contrast to the shameful way in which her State Government has given up any pretence of helping Local Councils perform their important responsibilities.

It is a matter of fact that since 1974, the Queensland Government has reduced its dollar assistance to Local Government from 26% of Councils’ revenue to only 7% today.

Mrs Cunningham is obviously happy with this neglect, preferring instead to fiddle with the way Federal funds are allocated in a way designed to hurt those Councils who have unfairly missed out in the past.

It is time Queensland people asked why Queensland Local Government is confronted with a major re-adjustment in the amount of Commonwealth Government Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs)?

This is a reasonable question considering there has been no reduction in the amount of FAGs grants to any of the States, including the State of Queensland, from the Commonwealth.

The answer is simple and beyond question as Mrs Cunningham has admitted in correspondence. The Queensland Grants Commission recommendations of the amounts to be paid to Queensland Councils are not consistent with the legislated National Principles, which ensure that funds are distributed to Councils most in need.

The Queensland Government has bucked the National Principles for each of the last eight years.

Having been forced to apply the law, Mrs Cunningham now proposes a phase in system that would have the effect of maintaining all the inaccuracies and unfairness that the Queensland Government has admitted was wrong in the past.

Minister Cunningham clearly has no concern for the 92 Queensland councils and their ratepayers who have been under-compensated for these eight years and who have increased their local rates accordingly.

Mrs Cunningham also refuses to return some of the $1.2 billion land tax and land-based stamp duties to be paid into Queensland Government coffers this year to assist the phase in process that would bring Queensland into line with all other States and Territories in the allocation of FAGs between Local Councils.

In light of the need to ameliorate the effect of the Queensland Government’s past mismanagement on Councils, I have agreed to phase in arrangements over up to 5 years for worst effected Councils.

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 Telephone: (02) 6277 7060 Facsimile: (02) 6273 7112

However, my formula also ensures that the 92 Councils who have been under compensated for 8 years will substantially receive their new entitlement within 3 years.

Mrs Cunningham has a peculiar view of justice and good administration which is apparently based on continuing a flawed approach to the advantage of those who have benefited beyond their entitlement for 8 years.

It is quite possible that some individual Councils have still not received the correct grant allocation but this is not the fault of the Commonwealth methodology but rather the parlous condition of Queensland Government data records which are essential for the fair application of the methodology.

I have no intention of further disadvantaging the 8-year losers, some of whom will still not receive justice until year eleven. This was never an issue for party politics, just one of applying the rules which by the way were constructed by the Keating Government.

No one in Queensland would expect NSW to have different rules to Queensland in a State of Origin game.

The transition arrangements I have proposed are as far as I intend to go and I advise Local Government to support it as being balanced and fair.

This money is Commonwealth money and to be honest my preference would be to distribute it exclusively according to the rules. I leave it to Local Government to contemplate that situation.

Ends

Graeme Hallett 0419 688 440