Parties take note: Local perspectives produce better policy
Those who follow recent federal elections fairly closely will find that the rhetoric that dominates debate in the lead up to the poll has a familiar ring. A favourite is that this upcoming election is the “most important in decades”. Funnily enough, so was the last one in 2016, and the one before that in 2013.
Only in retrospect can we truly label certain elections as more important than others because no one can predict with accuracy the policy and political challenges that the next term of federal parliament will present.
That said, there is value in rating the policy performance of political parties against the challenges that any incoming government may face.
The Grattan Institute has embarked on such an exercise and this week produced its Commonwealth Orange Book 2019, which rates Australia’s performance against similar countries and proposes policy reforms to schools and universities, hospitals and housing, roads and railways, cities and regions, budgets and taxes, retirement incomes and climate change.
But that is the big picture. How about suggesting what the next federal government needs to do at a local level?
Some of the challenges that local communities face are very apparent: dealing with the impact of climate change (particularly when it comes to major regional economic drivers like the Great Barrier Reef), improving road safety and ensuring local infrastructure is able to withstand the inevitable next flood, bushfire or cyclone.
Federal governments have a big role to play in these challenges, even if they often do not make the national headlines.
This is why the LGAQ is releasing regular Local Community Report Cards between now and the 18 May election. The way the parties intend to address these local issues is all important in the context of an election campaign, and deserves at least as much attention as the latest opinion poll on voting intentions.
These cards rate what the LNP, Labor, The Greens, Katter’s Australian Party, One Nation and the United Australia Party have said they will do in relation to the decline in grant funding to local communities, the need to address a local road infrastructure underspend of some $1.2 billion a year and the challenge of maintaining the Reef as a valuable economic asset, a notion local communities have been trying to promote for many years.
Some of these issues present a high hurdle to clear for the parties contesting this election. So far, none of them rate better than a C minus.
But so it should be. Poll after poll has shown an increasing disillusionment with the performance of successive federal governments. Canberra’s attitude toward local communities needs to improve. Why not start developing policy from a local perspective, where it matters every day?
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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