The LGAQ ensured councils had a strong collective voice in 2015-16, a 12-month period characterised by political uncertainty and a raft of reforms. In representing Queensland’s 77 councils, the Association scored key wins while enduring the frustration of short-sighted decisions by both the State and Federal governments.
Protecting councils and their communities from the wrath of Mother Nature was a common theme in our lobbying efforts. Thanks to untiring advocacy by the LGAQ, the State Budget delivered an additional investment of $200 million for councils, including extra funding for Building Our Regions, the Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme and the Community Resilience Fund. In conjunction with the State, we launched QCoast2100, which provides $12 million to help councils develop coastal hazard adaptation plans.
We also enjoyed success in the fight to convince the Federal Government to include day labour as an eligible component of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA). Unfortunately, the Commonwealth decided to delay $1.2 billion in NDRRA payments to Queensland. The LGAQ and the State Government have united to pressure the Federal Government to stump up what it owes and provide funding certainty in the future.
Protecting our elected members from frivolous or vexatious allegations was another focus for our Advocacy team. Our call for a review of the State’s councillor complaints system was heeded and an independent panel is in the process of streamlining the process.
The LGAQ lobbied the State Government in the development of new planning legislation. While we scored some victories in this Bill, we were dismayed at the late acceptance of amendments that allowed the designated non-State school developments to be exempt from council infrastructure charges. Likewise, we hold serious concerns about the Queen’s Wharf Act 2016, and its enhancement of ministerial powers to assess and decide developments in priority development areas.
On the industrial relations front, we showed we could hold our own when we achieved a single local government industry award. However, the State Government intervened, using its legislative powers, to restore the original, outdated employment conditions. This not only undermined the independent authority of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, but it also revealed the significant influence that trade unions have on the Government’s policy agenda.
We have had a lot to say – publicly in the media and privately to the State – about the decisions of the State and Commonwealth.
In the lead-up to the Federal Election on 2 July, we mounted a tenacious campaign to get local government issues at the forefront of the minds of all parties. We held 38 briefings with ministers, MPs, senators and other candidates to seek commitments to our policy agenda. Some favourable responses have been forthcoming and we will continue our lobbying efforts.
On a personal note, this will be my final Annual Report summary as General Manager – Advocacy. I sign off with immense pride in our past achievements here at the LGAQ and also pride in what our efforts now will accomplish in the future.
Greg Hoffman PSM
General Manager – Advocacy