As the newly appointed Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government it was a privilege to be in Canberra last week for the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) National General Assembly (NGA).
(min cost $8)
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The NGA is held each year and is the largest gathering of elected local government officials, as well as council officers. The theme of this year's NGA was Future Focused and around 800 delegates from approximately 300 councils attended. I know what a difference good local government can make in our communities and as a former Mayor of Gwydir Shire Council I understand the integral role councils play in all regions. I am not new to local government, but I am new to the local government portfolio as a Minister and I want to be the voice of local government in Canberra.
In my first speech to Parliament in 2008 I said "Councils across regional Australia have risen to the challenge to meet the needs of their communities and are not only providing the traditional services of roads, rates and rubbish but are now involved in health, child care, social work, education and aged care." So I feel like I've spent a life-time preparing for the role of minister for local government and I'm keen to make a difference. I am ambitious for local government and I want to see strong, engaged and effective local representation across all of our local government areas. I know there are many issues affecting local governments around Australia and I am aware Constitutional Recognition of Local Government is at the forefront of many discussions. I also know many Councils are pushing for the methodology of the Financial Assistance Grant Programme, which is a substantive and practical means by which the Australian Government supports local governments, to be changed.
The independent expert panel investigating social and economic conditions affecting communities across the Murray-Darling Basin has been announced.
Chairperson Robbie Sefton, Dr Deborah Peterson, Rene Woods, Andrew Kassebaum, David McKenzie and Bruce Simpson met in Canberra earlier this month. The panel discussed how it would deliver the report, the need for community consultation, flagged delivery of a preliminary report in December and its desire for a northern basin representative. The independent panel will look at how delivering the Basin Plan affects local communities and how to assist them. It will also look at how communities are changing and what their future needs might be. The Plan is not perfect as you'd expect when several governments have to agree, but it's the very best we're going to get and for certainty in rural communities it must be delivered. Information on the research and how to get involved can be found at the MDBA website.
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