Jun 19, 2013

Question Without Notice – Local Government Infrastructure

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen—Government Whip) (15:03): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government. How is the government building stronger regional and local communities across Australia and delivering infrastructure they need to support jobs and growth?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:03):  I thank the member for McEwen for his question. This week I have had the pleasure of spending time with representatives of local government who are here for the ALGA national assembly. On Sunday the Prime Minister and I hosted the Australian Council of Local Government, attended and spoken at by Senator Barnaby Joyce on behalf of the coalition, and today I spoke to the ALGA national assembly on their final day.

A great example of us working with local government to deliver community infrastructure projects is through the Regional Development Australia Fund and also through the Liveable Cities Program, and today I announced a new round of funding for local governments. The government will fund $105 million to regional and rural councils through the Regional Development Australia Fund and $45 million to urban councils from the Liveable Cities Program. All councils and shires will share in this funding based upon the formula for financial assistance grants done by the Grants Commission, so it is on a needs basis. Importantly, it is not in Canberra that what is good for local communities is being determined; it is local communities through their elected local representatives determining the priorities. The funding is for shovel-ready projects so that councils can kick-start additional economic activity in regional and local communities, creating jobs in construction but also creating better communities and improving the capacity for councils to upgrade swimming pools, ovals, libraries, arts centres, theatres, childcare centres—the range of services that are provided by local government in modern Australia.

This is just one example of why it is important that the federal government continue to be able to offer funding directly through local government and why our Constitution should recognise the reality of modern Australia: that we have three tiers of government and that local government is uniquely positioned to be able to determine the local priorities at the local level. That is why the referendum on 14 September is important. It is important that our modern Constitution reflect the modern reality of Australia and our governance structures, but it is also important to put beyond doubt the ability of the federal government to partner on programs such as these: the Roads to Recovery program, the heavy vehicle safety program, the Black Spot Program. We need to make sure that the yes vote is carried in the referendum and I look forward— (Time expired)