Councils’ burden is not fair

Published: 30th November 2023

By Alison Smith / LGAQ CEO
It’s a pretty basic equation that simply doesn’t add up – councils are responsible for 77 per cent of roads but receive only 3 per cent of all taxes.  That’s the national road figure from the respected Grattan Institute’s Potholes and Pitfalls report.
So if councils are only getting 3 cents in the dollar, where does the rest of it go? By far the biggest slice goes to the Federal Government – 80 cents in the dollar, while the states get the remaining 17 cents or so.
The tax carve up goes to the heart of why the Federal Government’s  changes to infrastructure do not work for other levels of government.
The Commonwealth’s suggestion that major projects should now be funded 50-50 with the State instead of the current 8020 split is a cost shift to the State. That is why Queensland mayors and the LGAQ joined Deputy Premier Steven Miles’ meeting  in Canberra, arguing for a better deal for Queensland taxpayers and ratepayers. We argued that any cuts to funding and projects are cuts to community liveability.
And major infrastructure is only the first part of the Canberra costshift. Step outside your home and no level of government provides so many immediate, critical services as your local council.
From the footpath you stand on to the road that runs past it carrying the rubbish truck that empties your bins – landfill, recycling and green waste – it is councils providing those services.
Too often councils have been left to deal with problems pushed on to them from the State and Federal governments, when those levels of government or the private sector pull back or pull out.
It is just not sustainable believing that the level of government that gets just three cents in every dollar of tax revenue, can and should have to deliver and maintain one third of the nation’s public infrastructure.
For decades, State and Federal Governments have been asking councils to do more with less funding. Just a few months ago, the Queensland Auditor-General released his report that showed 46 councils are at moderate to high risk of not being financially sustainable.
It only makes sense that if Canberra is getting the bulk of the tax cash it should also start paying more  to the level of government – councils – that are providing the on-the-ground services.
After yesterday’s meeting, we will now look forward to the federal minister clarifying publicly what flexibility might be possible with the move to 50/50 infrastructure funding.