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Funding welcome for local councils, but what about reform?



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Federal Member for Wannon

Hamilton Office 190 Gray St, HAMILTON VIC 3300 Warrnambool Office 73 Kepler St WARRNAMBOOL VIC 3280 Freecall 1300 131 692 E David.Hawker.MP@aph.gov.au W www.davidhawker.com.au

Federal Member for Wannon

19 November 2008

FUNDING WELCOME FOR LOCAL COUNCILS, BUT WHAT ABOUT REFORM?

Federal Member for Wannon, David Hawker, has welcomed the allocation of almost $4.5million for Western Victorian councils as part of the Australian Government’s fiscal stimulus package, but said the Labor Government has failed to address the need to reform local government at the first Australian Council of Local Government meeting in Canberra yesterday.

“While the stimulus package is welcome, we should not mistake this announcement as anything more than another very large cheque signed by the Rudd Government from an ever decreasing surplus,” Mr Hawker said.

“Yesterday’s announcement did nothing to introduce much needed reforms such as cutting council regulation and red tape and improving transparency in local government decision-making.

“The move to more direct engagement between the Commonwealth and councils is welcome, but it must have the power to transform and reform local government,” he said.

“Yesterday’s meeting of mayors highlighted once again the many issues that have been talked about for decades. Local government is ill equipped to deal with the challenges they face. Cost shifting from State Governments and a lack of certainty about financing arrangements make their task even more difficult.

“There is an urgent need to enhance the capacity of local government by engaging in a comprehensive programme of reform. A number of reforms were recommended by the Parliamentary Committee I chaired into cost-shifting onto local government, and I would urge the Government to take heed of those recommendations.

“Our councils know what they need to do. It is now a question of getting reforms in place that enable Councils to step up and do their job.”

Mr Hawker said with federal taxpayer funds increasingly being used to support our councils, a move initiated by the Coalition Government through their highly successful Roads to Recovery Programme, the Federal Government must demand a quid pro quo on reform from local councils to improve how they go about delivering services to our community.

“Any new partnership between the Commonwealth and local government must ask the hard questions of local government such as reducing business regulation, reforming council workplaces and enhancing transparency in local government decision making,” he said.

“The only demand Mr Rudd is making of Councils for increased funding is for a photo opportunity and a personal and very public thank you, showing once again the Rudd Government has a political strategy for local government, but no strategy for policy.” - ENDS -

Media contact: Jane Templeton (03) 5572 1100