The LGAQ continues to advocate for improvements to legislation, regulation and funding programs so that councils can provide essential infrastructure and services to their communities.
As vertical fiscal imbalance in revenue collection is likely to remain a feature of Australia’s Federal system, a large part of the LGAQ’s activity involves advocacy to achieve a fair and equitable redistribution of revenue from the Commonwealth and the State to local government.
Throughout the year, the LGAQ met ministers, departments and agencies, appeared at hearings, and lodged numerous submissions to Government inquiries and reviews on matters affecting local government.
The 2015 Federal Budget included several funding measures affecting councils. These included the $100 million from the Bridges Renewal Program exclusively for councils on a competitive application basis, a share of the $1 billion National Stronger Regions program for smaller proposals to benefit councils, $100 million for priority Northern Australia beef transport roads, and an extra $33.7 million for remote airstrip upgrades.
Importantly, the Roads to Recovery program provided additional funding to Queensland councils of $224.7 million over the next two years, and a share of another $200 million to address road safety ‘black spots’ around Australia.
In the lead up to the 2015 Queensland State Election, the LGAQ developed its 10 Point Policy Plan to identify key issues and provide major political parties with the opportunity to develop appropriate policy and funding responses.
This was followed by a series of briefing papers prepared for incoming ministers to provide them with information on the key issues.
Subsequently, the July State Budget included several measures to provide funds to councils. These include $59.4 million over the next five years ‘to deliver a better planning system’; $59.4 million over three years to invest in urban infrastructure that ‘unlocks development’ and creates long-term employment; and $23.55 million this year for the Local Government Grants and Subsidies Program.
The influence of the LGAQ’s 10 Point Policy Plan on the Government’s fiscal thinking was apparent in the $30 million a year increase in Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme funding. A boost to TIDs funding was one of the key features of the policy plan.
Another key “ask” of the plan was reflected in the Government’s Building Our Regions program to provide funding, quarantined to councils, for critical infrastructure in regional areas of the state. This program included a Regional Capital Fund of $70 million over two years, a Remote Communities Infrastructure Fund of $15 million over two years and a Royalties for Resource Producing Communities fund of $55 million over two years.
Another commitment that was in direct response to the LGAQ’s 2015 State Election Local Government 10 Point Policy Plan was the $40 million Community Resilience Fund to help local governments mitigate the impact of natural disasters on infrastructure. The LGAQ continues to call on the Federal Government to match this commitment from the State.