Missed opportunity to address financial sustainability

Published: 14th May 2021

Tuesday night’s Federal Budget contained many highlights for local government from the Northern Australia reinsurance pool to digital connectivity and disaster mitigation to the extension of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCIP) for another two years.

We again welcome these initiatives, including the Northern Australia reinsurance pool and the LRCIP COVID-19 stimulus program, as they will make a real difference to local communities.

But it is hard not to be disappointed by yet another missed opportunity for the Commonwealth to deliver what every council and local community has been crying out for across this state, and indeed across the nation, and that is the restoration of Financial Assistance Grants to one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Right now it continues to sit at just 0.6 per cent.

Financial sustainability continues to be the number one issue facing councils.

The cost shifting that has been occurring for decades by the State and Federal Governments shows no signs of waning.

Nor does the market failure councils continually need to step in to fill to ensure their communities remain liveable for their residents.

That includes crucial areas like childcare. If councils did not provide this service in some parts of our state then families would be forced to choose between leaving work or moving to another area.

That then impacts other services to the region like health and education. Councils have no choice but to deliver that service and wear the loss because they want the best for their communities.

And yet the financial support councils need to shore up employment, service delivery and infrastructure both now and into the future continues to elude us.

Without access to a fair share of Commonwealth taxation revenue the financial situation facing councils is only going to continue to worsen and our communities will only continue to suffer as a result.

You have heard me say this thousands of times but councils only raise three per cent of total taxation revenue yet are responsible for 33 per cent of public assets, while the Commonwealth raises more than 80 per cent and the State raises the rest.

While Commonwealth and State bureaucracies continue to grow, the Queensland local government workforce is the same now as it was in 2010.

Queensland councils continue to do more with much less.

Our sector needs funding certainty. Restoring Financial Assistant Grants to one per cent would relieve the pressure.

This ask is not something that is going away. We will continue to push for a fairer share.


Role of the Crime and Corruption Commission in focus

Pressure continues to mount on the State Government to review the Crime and Corruption Commission’s activities in light of the failed fraud case brought by the watchdog against the former Logan City councillors.

This week saw a welcome intervention from Clerk of the Parliament Neil Laurie who outlined the need to clarify the CCC’s role in his submission to the CCC’s parliamentary oversight committee, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee.

In his submission, Mr Laurie writes: 

“Generally there is separation between investigators and prosecutors. There are sound reasons for this separation. This separation is particularly important for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, which refers to when a prosecutor has the power to decide whether or not to charge a person for a crime (despite there being a prima facie case), and which criminal charges to file or discontinue. It is also important when there are serious and complex charges which may be issued in a matter.”

Mr Laurie’s submission also raised concerns about the current diversity of the CCC and whether it reflects the original vision of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, among other issues. 

The LGAQ has also raised similar concerns.

There must be a separation between those investigating allegations and those with the power to lay charges to ensure the final decision to charge is made independently and with complete objectivity.

I was asked by the ABC’s Steve Austion to provide my thoughts on Mr Laurie’s submission. You can listen to the interview here (listen from 00:38.33 - 00:53.01)

We strongly believe in the need for a robust Crime and Corruption Commission. Be very clear about that.

We just believe when the CCC gets it seriously wrong, there must be an inquiry to ensure lessons are learnt because lives can and are being ruined and, in the case of the former Logan City Council, a duly elected council was wrongly sacked over untested charges that should never have been laid.

It is in the public interest for an investigation to be held into the Logan matter to determine whether or not there have been any laws broken in the CCC’s reckless pursuit of the Logan case when the matter was already before the correct jurisdiction and – as has now become apparent – there was insufficient evidence to justify the charges laid.