Weekly Speak CEO Column
An investment in trust
In his address to the LGAQ’s annual conference this year, President Mayor Mark Jamieson dwelt on the importance of trust. There is no more valuable measure of the relationship between local councils and their communities than trust. It contributes to everything from ensuring the public acceptance of a budget strategy to keeping lines of communication open during dangerous times of cyclones and fire. But it’s a commodity that can be lost very quickly if councils do not remain vigilant.
All that is valuable for LGAQ members to keep in mind when contemplating the role of the new Office of Independent Assessor, responsible for investigating complaints about councillor conduct. The Office, headed up by former Crime and Corruption Commission investigator Kathleen Florian, began work this week and promises to ensure a much more streamlined and effective process of resolving complaints. I wish her well.
A barrister by profession, Ms Florian has promised to do her job for the benefit of the community and councillors who are trying to do the right thing while insisting councillors who committed misconduct would be held to account. Given that we are about to enter the final year of this local government term, a period when complaints against sitting councillors _ vexatious and otherwise _ traditionally ramp up, the Palaszczuk Government could not have made a more timely appointment.
If the Independent Assessor does her job well, community trust in local government can only benefit.
The Christmas New Year break is approaching fast but the business of lobbying our federal colleagues in Canberra continued this week, with myself and intergovernmental relations lead Stephan Bohnen conducting a series of meetings with Government and Opposition senators and MPs as well as staff from the offices of the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.
Topping the list for discussion was the campaign by the local government sector across Australia to convince the next federal government to lift financial assistance grants to council to the equivalent of 1 percent of total Commonwealth taxation revenue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again many times between now and next year’s federal election _ with councils collecting just 3 percent of the nation’s taxes yet trying to manage 33 percent of Australia’s public assets, it’s time for Canberra to get serious about its responsibility to local communities and direct more funds to help pay for local roads, libraries, parks and gardens and the like. That is the sort of infrastructure investment that makes a difference to the daily lives of all Australians.
Finally, may I again congratulate those mayors and their councils that have coped with the fire and other emergencies that have challenged the state over the past couple of weeks. State Government agencies provide some outstanding support in such times but it is a constant that local councils are there for their communities before, during and after natural disasters. You’ve done the sector proud.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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