The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is the peak body representing all local councils across Australia at a Federal level. ALGA serves as a national-wide peak body and is the national equivalent of the state-based peak bodies such as the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).
The annual National General Assembly, which was held in Darwin, provides an opportunity for member councils to discuss motions of national significance to establish the direction of AGLA in terms of influencing national government policies.
This year Maroondah proposed two motions for consideration at the assembly. The two motions were as follows:
- That this National General Assembly call on the Federal Government to recognise the importance of public transport, provide specific funding for upgrading facilities, infrastructure and systems
- That the National General Assembly seek a commitment by the Federal Government to review, as a matter of urgency, the practicality and equity associated with the current funding arrangements for the National Immunisation program – Australian Childhood Register as these impact on the provision of services by Local Government.
Both motions were successful and will result in ALGA advocating for policy changes with the incoming Federal Government.
Local Government is predominately responsible for providing immunisation services but cost shifting is becoming an increasing issue with service agreements not adequately reflecting the cost of delivering the service. While local councils do not object to delivering the service, it is reasonable to expect an equitable arrangement to cover the cost of the service.
In regard to public transport, the motion demonstrates that local government across Australia stands united in calling for federal leadership in examining funding models for involvement in public transport. This motion expands upon the successful motion that was adopted last year at the 2006 National General Assembly:
- That the National General Assembly calls on the Commonwealth Government to adopt the transport recommendations as outlined in the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage – Sustainable Cities Report (September 2005).
While the motion last year established a direction for ALGA, it was now timely to specify exactly what local government was requesting, namely federal funding of urban public transport infrastructure.
Issues such as the rising costs associated with traffic congestion and greenhouse emissions have national repercussions and it is therefore appropriate that the federal government be involved in solutions, such as the provision of public transport infrastructure, to assist in mitigating these concerns.
The purpose of this approach is not to shift blame from State to Federal Governments, but rather to improve governance and to ensure a national perspective on transport. This in turn can help shape State Government priorities to ensure that much needed public transport infrastructure is delivered.
The National General Assembly also included a number of speakers at the accompanying conference. Speakers included futurist Richard Neville, who spoke about the challenges facing Australia and the need for action and foresight in mitigating detrimental environmental effects.
Environmental issues were also discussed by Professor Tim Flannery, who spoke extensively about the need for action in reducing greenhouse emissions. This is the case given that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown significant increases in Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide within the atmosphere. Local government can lead by example in reducing greenhouse emissions and promoting the need for action to both the community and other levels of government.