It gives me great pleasure as your acting CEO this week to introduce to you our new Head of Advocate Alison Smith. Alison started with the LGAQ in what has been a very big week for the sector. She has come armed with a passion for local government and a drive to ensure Queensland councils have the best possible policies, programs, funds, and legislative environments that you need to be able to do your jobs. Alison will be hitting the road next week, travelling to our Division 8 councils alongside CEO Greg Hallam and she looks forward to meeting and speaking with you all in the days, weeks and months ahead and hearing about your challenges and your goals for the term ahead.
New Minister announced
I want to also take this opportunity to once again congratulate and warmly welcome our new Local Government Minister, Deputy Premier Steven Miles. The Deputy Premier was this week announced as the new Minister for State Development, Local Government, Infrastructure and Planning – in addition to his Deputy Premier role - as part of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Cabinet reshuffle. This announcement is extremely good news for Queensland councils. It shows the Premier has listened to councils and the LGAQ and not only re-elevated the Local Government portfolio to a member of the Palaszczuk Government’s leadership team but also linked it to an important economic development portfolio.
You, our Member councils, had called for this change. You passed a Policy Executive resolution at last month’s 124th LGAQ Annual Conference for us to advocate for the re-establishment of the Department of Local Government Infrastructure and Planning. LGAQ President Mark Jamieson wrote to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk following her re-election, requesting the change and she has not only listened but acted and we thank her again for this.
Assistant Minister to Deputy Premier Miles is Pine Rivers MP Nikki Boyd. Meanwhile, our advocacy has helped further shape the Ministries and Departments, with the Premier creating a new ‘rural communities’ portfolio. Mark Furner was sworn in this week as Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities. We look forward to working with Deputy Premier Miles, Assistant Minister Boyd and Minister Furner to take this state and Queensland’s local communities forward over the next four years. We also look forward to continuing our work with the Honourable Stirling Hinchliffe in his new role as Minister for Tourism Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Sport and the rest of the Cabinet, officially sworn in yesterday.
LNP leadership change
The LGAQ is fiercely independent and works with all sides of politics to further the interests of councils and their local communities. We congratulate newly appointed LNP Leader David Crisafulli – himself a former councillor, deputy mayor and former Minister for Local Government – and look forward to working with him and his new team over the next four years.
Minister Hinchliffe this week also pledged to swiftly and retrospectively move to repeal the contentious runner-up provisions that mandates mayoral and councillor vacancies occurring within the first 12 months of the term be filled by the candidate who received the next highest proportion of the vote at the quadrennial election. This fulfils a commitment made by the Premier and Minister Hinchliffe at Annual Conference following strong and sustained advocacy from both the LGAQ and you, our member councils.
While we are happy with the pledge to quickly fix the laws, it has not come without a cost and follows the loss of long-serving Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow. Margaret has been a strong advocate not just for her local community but for the local government sector as a whole, serving almost two decades on council including more than 16 years as Mayor. On behalf of the LGAQ we thank her for her dedicated community service and wish her well. Minister Hinchliffe’s announcement should mean Margaret’s community will now have their say on who will replace her via a by-election as will the voters of Townsville City Council’s Division 10 following Les Walker’s election to State Parliament.
This week the LGAQ joined with its member councils in marking NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC Week is always a special week for all Queensland councils and their communities, including our 17 First Nations councils. This year’s theme was Always Was, Always Will Be, in recognition of the fact that First Nations people have occupied and cared for the continent for more than 65,000 years.
Battleplan recognised on the national stage
Finally, I would like to congratulate our Mayors and the LGAQ team for your work in ensuring the Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities was successful in doing what it was designed to do, ensuring you have the programs needed to create jobs and see your communities through the COVID-19 pandemic. This work was recognised on the national stage with the campaign winning gold in the public affairs and advocacy category at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s Golden Target Awards.
This campaign would not have happened without the support of you, our elected members, and the united voice we presented to the government throughout the campaign. It is yet another example of how strong we are as a sector because we stick together.