Weekly Speak CEO Column
Kicking goals in Canberra
The middle of June in Canberra is traditionally when the Australian Local Government Association’s National General Assembly rolls out and this year was no different. Indeed, this was the event’s 25th anniversary and it attracted a healthy 880 delegates from across the country.
All up, it was five big days in the national capital for the LGAQ team. With Saturday given over to the meeting of ALGA Board, Sunday saw the very well attended Regional Cooperation and Development Forum. Then we were into the three days of the NGA, proper. On top of the ALGA set pieces, the LGAQ’s annual breakfast for Queensland delegates on the first morning of the assembly featured two prominent Federal MPs from the State: Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz and Labor’s spokesperson on Environment and Water Terri Butler. To their credit, they spoke well and without rancour and were happy to field questions from delegates.
On top of that, myself and senior LGAQ staff met with the new Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Mark Coulton, as well as his Labor counterpart, Jason Clare. Both were excellent first meetings with figures who were genuinely listening to what we had to say.
In fact, the general mood throughout the entire assembly was that our federal MPs have a renewed enthusiasm to engage with local councils and their associations to find ways to deliver what local communities want. It was fitting, then, that no federal parliamentarian who ventured into the National Convention Centre this week, whether to attend the LGAQ breakfast speak at the sessions at the NGA, or to stand in the queue for lunch, was left in any doubt that councils are firm in their resolve to push for a restoration of Financial Assistance Grants to at least 1 percent of total Commonwealth tax revenue.
The Queensland contingent of 66 (27 councils) at the NGA was somewhat smaller than previous years and in truth was dwarfed by the turnout of more than 500 from NSW and Victorian councils. But it is important here to point out the differences between the resolutions passed at the NGA and those voted on at the LGAQ’s own annual general meeting every October. The NGA is a good guide to the prevailing sentiment among Australia’s local government sector, but the assembly’s resolutions are not binding on ALGA or its members, the state local government associations. Whereas motions passed at the LGAQ AGM are binding on our organisation. The only members of ALGA are the state associations who pay all the bills for the organisation’s operation, around $2.5 million a year.
Not every council attends the NGA - far from it. Some states have populations significantly less than Queensland’s but twice as many councils. There is no weighted vote to reflect the difference between, say, Brisbane City, and small councils of less than one thousand residents. So, for good reasons, the resolutions decided at the NGA provide general guidance only to the ALGA Board on policy settings.
Still on events, the LGAQ Secretariat this week sent out the requests for motions to this year’s LGAQ Annual Conference in Cairns. The deadline for us to receive motions is Monday, 5 August. A reminder, too, that it is individual councils that are members of the LGAQ not Regional Organisations of Councils.
All motions must be in the name of individual councils and, indeed, passed at a council meeting. Any motion thus formulated can be further endorsed by a ROC or District Association to add extra weight.
In good news, our new Federal Minister Mark Coulton has accepted the LGAQ’s invitation to speak at and attend the Bush Councils Convention in Roma in August. Register here.
And, in other great news I can confirm that the keynote speaker at our LGAQ Annual Conference is none other than the man the international press have dubbed the “Nostradamus of the 21st Century”, Griffith University’s Professor Bela Stantic. This is the man who has successfully predicted the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s victory (he actually got 49 of the 50 states right), and of course Scott Morrison’s surprise victory at the recent federal election. He will tell delegates how he picks winners using extensive analysis of the big data produced by social media and how that knowledge of what the community is thinking and saying can benefit council decision making.
Finally, yes it was bone chillingly cold in Canberra.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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