Global risks and local solutions
The annual get together of political and economic leaders for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, gets a lot of bad press for taking an “ivory tower” view of the global challenges we face. And while it is understandable that some will poke fun at those who choose an exclusive ski resort as a good place to earnestly discuss the plight of the world, I think much of the criticism of Davos is unfair. When you have a good look at the Davos agenda, you realise that much of it has a direct and immediate connection to the things people living in local communities are beginning to confront.
This week, the forum released its latest Global Risks Report. For the LGAQ, it confirmed our view that the policy developments local government is pursuing, a sharper focus on climate change adaptation, more attention to natural disaster mitigation, a better response to drought, a commitment to data ethics, are aimed at avoiding the most likely risks identified by these global economic leaders.
The Global Risks Report puts the failure to mitigate against climate change and damage from extreme weather events at or near the top of the list of risks the world faces, both in terms of their impact and likelihood. Now, take a look at our policy plan for the upcoming federal election campaign and its call for $200 million a year to be invested in infrastructure to mitigate against natural disasters, and another $200 million a year on a concerted response to the impacts of climate change. Our list of asks for the parties and their candidates contesting this election also includes a $100 million investment in smart communities, particularly in relation to data security. This at a time when cyber-attacks and data fraud and theft are in the top five of most likely risks the World Economic Forum has identified.
So, while the Davos report obviously has a global focus, the things it talks about pose genuine policy challenges for all levels of government in Australia, especially councils. Rest assured the LGAQ and its members will take every chance to ensure our federal colleagues on both sides of the political fence heed the Davos message and its implications for local communities.
Fittingly given the high likelihood the World Economic Form gives to further extreme weather events, drought has been front and centre for the LGAQ pretty much for the entire first three weeks of 2019. We have deliberately focussed on the impact of drought on entire communities beyond the farm gate, culminating in the LGAQ making a major submission to the State and Federal Governments.
Last week, regional development advocacy manager Simone Talbot, resource sector and regional development lead Kirsten Pietzner and myself met the members of the state-appointed independent panel to examine current approaches to drought, Ruth Wade and Charles Burke. This week we also met the Federal Drought Co-ordinator Major General Stephen Day as well as drought commissioner Mark O’Brien to push our members’ case.
Importantly, Simone and Kirsten “ground-truthed” our submissions by consulting councils. The LGAQ Policy Executive asked us to do that before we finalised our submissions. This followed a long discussion on this important issue at the December 2018 Policy Executive.
As I mentioned the focus of the submission us on the long term impact of drought on the social and economic fabric of country towns. We went beyond anecdotes and used long term trend data and actual examples of the impact of drought on businesses in rural towns. In addition we argued for all levels of government to make long term investments in community resilience and for that to be a focus of the any drought proofing fund the Federal Government settles on.
That focus struck a chord with the drought representatives we have met. That is not to dismiss the very harsh impact of drought on primary producers, but the LGAQ has left that job to the grower groups. I encourage you to read our submissions when it is released next week.
Finally, a big thank you to councils large and small who are publicly supporting the campaign to ensure local government financial assistance grants are restored to at least 1% of the total taxes Australians pay Canberra. Go, you good things.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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