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                    [post_content] => 
Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash. Pic: Colin Bettles. 

 

Local councils have called upon the federal government to be transparent about its decentralisation drive and make it evidence-based and free from politicking, rather than leaving them to battle one another for government jobs, a public inquiry has heard.

A public hearing in Townsville last week (Friday) was the first time most regional councils have been able to make their feelings known about the possibility of moving public servants from Australia’s capital cities out into rural and regional areas.

The federal government decentralisation initiative, spearheaded by Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, has put government ministers on notice. Ministers have been told to justify why jobs and departments should stay in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne or to nominate a region to move to by December. Ms Nash has said the criteria for assessment will be finalised by mid-2017.

There are currently 155,000 public servants, or 14 per cent of the APS, located outside capital cities.

The hearing was part of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee’s inquiry into the relocation of Commonwealth departments and specifically into the potential impact of the controversial plan to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) form Canberra to the northern NSW town of Armidale, in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate, by 2019.

The APVMA relocation, which involves about 190 staff, most of whom are highly specialised, failed a government-commissioned cost-benefit analysis and led to many staff walking out the door, including Chief Executive Kareena Arthy and some top regulatory scientists and lawyers. Ernst and Young estimated the move would cost at least $23.19 million. This includes redundancies for 85 per cent of the APVMA staff the report identified as unwilling to move to Armidale.

The plan to move the agricultural chemicals regulator exposed the government to further ridicule after Ms Arthy​ revealed that Canberra-based public servants were working out of Armidale MacDonalds using the free wi-fi because they had nowhere else to work, at a February Senate Estimates’ hearing, a remark Ms Arthy later said was taken out of context.

The situation blew up again after a document was leaked to Fairfax in April which gave APVMA staff suggested scripted replies to recite if they were asked about the relocation during "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings". The guidelines came from APVMA’s Chief Operating Officer Stefanie Janiec.

Meanwhile, Committee Chair Labor Senator Jenny Mcallister said last week’s public inquiry showed that councils wanted the decentralisation process depoliticised ‘rather than agencies or departments being moved on a minister's whim’. She said councils also felt bypassed by the federal government, which had not spoken to them about its decentralisation agenda.

She said that while every council wanted public service jobs they should not have to individually petition ministers for favours.

“The community can't have that confidence in Barnaby Joyce's decisions,“ Ms Mcallister said. “The Nationals should back Cathy McGowan's proposal for a broad inquiry into decentralisation as a first step to rebuilding that trust.“

Acting Chair of Regional Development Australia Townsville and West Queensland, Frank Beveridge agreed that every region ‘would fight tooth and nail’ to have even one government department in their backyard but he said it was important to ’get away from the politics and actually have some legitimate figures backing it up, supporting it‘.

Fears that regional councils could cannabilise each other’s growth look to be well-founded.

All the councils spruiked their own areas at the inquiry, whether talking up their internet connectivity, educational institutions, transport links or affordable housing and insisted their area was unique and should get Commonwealth jobs.

Toowoomba and Gatton (which has the University of Queensland) were both vying for APVMA before the decison to move the authority to Armidale was finalised.

Cessnock City Council Mayor Bob Pynsent said the application process needed to be open and fair to councils.

“The process would need to be transparent, so that every local government area has the opportunity to apply. And when those assessments are made, the decision would not be a political one but be based on the criteria that have been made available to the people who have applied,“ Mr Pynsent said.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said ‘transparency is extremely important to the community to provide confidence that we are doing the right thing‘ and Peter Hargreaves from Bendigo Council said the planned relocation ‘must be a planned process based on clear objectives’.

Councils are keen to have the criteria for regional development made clear, for example, the importance of closeness to a university, internet speed or available office space, and for regions to be properly defined.

The Senate Committee will issue its report on June 9.
                    [post_title] => Play fair on decentralisation, say councils at APVMA inquiry
                    [post_excerpt] => Don’t make us fight each other for jobs.
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                    [post_content] =>  

 

Former NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay announced his retirement from the Legislative Council of NSW after 28 years at the National’s Central Council meeting in Broken Hill this afternoon (Thursday).

Mr Gay joined the NSW Nationals in 1974 and was made a life member in 2011. He spent six years as the state’s Roads Minister between 2011 and 2017 but lost his job during NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Cabinet reshuffle in January. Mr Gay signalled at the time that he was likely to quit Parliament ‘sooner rather than later’.

He was also the Leader of the Nationals in the NSW Legislative Council.

Mr Gay said: “Since becoming Minister in 2011, I have spearheaded major motorway projects in Sydney like WestConnex and NorthConnex, championed movement of freight from ‘paddock to port’ and driven key road safety initiatives.

“As a young grazier from Crookwell, I would have never dreamed of being one of the state’s longest serving Ministers for Roads. I could not be prouder of what I have achieved in my portfolio over six years.”

Mr Gay said he had delivered the M5 West Widening project, mandated flashing lights at every NSW school and persuaded people to wear life jackets while out on the water.

Meanwhile tributes poured in from the Liberals and Nationals.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Mr Gay was 'a key member of the team' when the Coalition was elected to power in 2011 and had overseen the creation of the Roads and Maritime Services, as well as accelerated upgrades to the Princes, Pacific and Newell Highways.

"We enjoyed an extremely strong and close working relationship during my time as the Minister for Transport and Treasurer. Duncan was highly respected by both sides of the Legislative Council where he served as Leader of the House and Leader of the Government," Ms Berejiklian said.

"He was valued for his wisdom and judgment, and his experience will be difficult to replace. I wish Duncan and his family all the best for the future."

Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro thanked Mr Gay for his years of service and for driving various infrastructure programs, many of which were targeted at regional Australia.

“Under his guidance, more money has been invested in rural and regional roads in NSW than in any other state in the country,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Programs like Bridges for the Bush, Fixing Country Roads and Fixing Country Rail mean that every person driving in regional NSW will benefit from Duncan’s leadership and legacy."

He called Mr Gay a 'passionate advocate for road users and the improvement of the road network across the state' and welcomed his continued wisdom and guidance in the years to come while wishing him, and his wife Katie, well for the future.

NSW Nationals Party Chairman Bede Burke said Mr Gay had delivered around $38 billion of investment for projects to country NSW – almost two-thirds of the total amount for the state - and country people had a lot to thank him for.

“Right across NSW, drivers only have to look out their car windows to see all of the roads under construction – from Mulgoa to Molong to Moree.

“Duncan has been a firm and unshakeable figure in the Nationals for more than 40 years,” Mr Burke said. "The lives of people in regional NSW are markedly better because of Duncan and the party is supremely grateful for his lifetime of service.”

Deputy Leader of the NSW Nationals, Niall Blair said Mr Gay would be missed by all sides of the Chamber.

“History will record Duncan as one of the giants of the Legislative Council,” Mr Blair said.

“His contributions over 28 years are too many to list and his record for fighting for the best deal in regional NSW will serve as a great example for those of us who remain.”

Mr Gay's last sitting day will be June 22.
                    [post_title] => Nationals' leading light reaches end of the road: Duncan Gay calls it quits
                    [post_excerpt] => Former NSW Roads Minister retires.  
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                    [post_content] =>  


Fighting for deamalgamation: former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace. Pic: YouTube.

 

Residents are gearing up to push NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to deamalgamate NSW councils forcibly merged in May last year, galvanised by recent court successes of two councils opposing their mergers.

Ku-ring-gai Council, on Sydney’s upper north shore, scored a victory against the NSW government in March when the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” during its merger because delegate Garry West relied on a report from consultants KPMG, which contained financial modelling that the council could not access.

The state government was ordered to pay the council’s costs and decided not to appeal the decision but Ms Berejiklian has made it clear she will not back down on the merger and her next move is uncertain.

Rebel councils had another opportunity to celebrate after Woollahra Council was granted special leave to appeal against its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley in the High Court last week, reigniting the council’s hopes after a failed attempt to challenge the legality of its amalgamation in the Land and Environment Court in December last year.

The Ku-ring-gai and Woollahra cases have helped inspire the recent formation of two residents’ groups, which are hoping to stop some mergers and deamalgamate others.

Local Democracy Matters represents people opposed to the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils, which is still on the cards.

Protect Pittwater is pushing for the succession of Pittwater from the Northern Beaches Council, which emerged from the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils in May last year.

Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely.

Protect Pittwater is also planning to submit a proposal to the NSW Local Government Minister to redefine council boundaries and reinstate Pittwater Council under the NSW Local Government Act but first the group must gather the signatures of 250 of the enrolled voters for the area; or 10 per cent, whichever is greater.

Minister Gabrielle Upton, would then have to refer the proposal for examination and report to the Boundaries Commission or to the Departmental Chief Executive if the action was taken under Section 218E of the act, which deals with boundary alterations.

This could kick off the whole delegate, public hearing process all over again.

Bob Grace from Protect Pittwater, who served for three years on Warringah Council and 20 years on Pittwater Council, said the action was necessary to protect the area from high rises and dense development, similar to that already visited upon Manly and Dee Why.

He said there would only be three councillors out of 15 on the Northern Beaches council after the September local government elections and Warringah would hold sway.

“They’ve sold us out and I think everyone agrees with that. We will win this case if we go to court,” Mr Grace, a retired barrister, said. “There is really strong feeling up here. People in Pittwater are different. They don’t want a vibrant atmosphere like Manly and they don’t want high rise.”

The group will crowdfund the money needed for legal fees.

“Crowdfunding will enable the community to contribute and take action on their [own] behalf. They can get their council back if they want to contribute,” Mr Grace said.

“People are realising that this Northern Beaches Council is all spin. Services are going down and staff are leaving.”

Local Democracy Matters spokeperson Richard Horniblow said residents wanted to keep councils ‘genuinely local’ but some councils had not put up enough resistance to the government’s merger plans.

“While Woollahra [Council] has been working hard to protect its residents from a forced amalgamation, we have seen too little too late from Randwick and dreadful complicity by the Liberal majority in Waverley,” Mr Horniblow said.

“Our association has members from across the political spectrum who are coming together with one goal: to protect our right to genuinely local government that meets the needs of local residents.”

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said other councils where feelings still ran high could follow suit, for example Leichhardt, Gundagai and Tumbarumba.  

“It is really heartening to see residents standing up so strongly for their councils and for their local democracy,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“Residents in the east aren’t waiting for Waverley and Randwick Councils to come good and oppose the amalgamation but are now taking the state government to court themselves.”

He said the Ku-ring-gai decision applied to all the government’s amalgamation proposals ‘on the face of it’ and this included Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick.

Randwick Council agreed on Tuesday this week that it would mount a late legal challenge to its merger after two liberal councillors withdrew a rescission motion.

Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza said the council had received legal advice, which the council has said it will publish, which suggested it had grounds for appeal.

“Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone,” Mr D’Souza said. “With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.”

Merger court cases are still in progress for several hold-out councils, including Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Strathfield, Mosman, and Lane Cove.
                    [post_title] => Residents clamour for NSW council deamalgamation after recent court wins
                    [post_excerpt] => Randwick Council’s late legal challenge.
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                    [post_content] => 
The Sydney bus war rages on. 

 

Bus services in Sydney’s Inner West will be snatched away from State Transit and given to the private sector to run.

NSW Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance said inner-west bus services had attracted the highest number of complaints in the Sydney metro area, “well above” complaints about buses operated by the private sector in adjoining areas. They also had some of the worst on-time running results, he said.

“There have been improvements in recent years, but State Transit still lags a long way behind its industry competitors in measures like on-time running and reliability,” Mr Constance said.

“If the bus industry can provide quality in western Sydney, the Inner West deserves the same, especially as Sydney grows.”

The services that will go out to competitive tender are in Bus Region 6, which services suburbs from the city west to Strathfield and Olympic Park with the tender beginning in July 2017 and likely to be completed by July 2018.

The government will retain ownership of the region’s buses and assets, including depots, continue to set Opal fares and timetables and regulate safety and operational standards.

But while Mr Constance was talking up his prediction that the “world’s best operators” would compete for the tender, which will come up for renewal every five to ten years, and deliver better services for customers the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) of NSW is predicting disaster.

RTBU Bus Division Secretary Chris Preston said the government’s decision to privatise bus services would slash routes, close bus stops and cost 1,200 public transport workers their jobs.

He called the privatisation “a complete betrayal” of Sydney commuters and bus drivers.

“We oppose privatisation because we know at the end of the day, it’s the commuters who’ll pay,” Mr Preston said. “Less popular, less profitable bus routes get the chop and commuters are left stranded.

“Private bus operators put profits before the public. To make money they’ll slash services and cut back on maintenance. We’ve seen it happen before.”

He said the State Transit Authority told bus drivers their jobs were safe for five years in December last year but they would now “get the chop”, something Mr Constance appeared to deny when he said the government would be “growing transport jobs because we want to grow and improve services”.

Mr Preston said the government’s intention was to privatise all public transport across NSW.

“Every Sydney commuter needs to be asking, ‘is my bus next on the chopping block?’ “.

Sydney Buses will continue to operate regions seven, eight and nine, which includes the inner metropolitan areas of the eastern, and southern and northern suburbs, including the CBD.

Meanwhile the Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) waded into the debate and backed the minister.  

Chief Executive of TTF, Margy Osmond, said competitive contracting would deliver “enormous financial and service benefits to both commuters and government”.

“The management of bus networks is an area of transport policy in which the private sector has proven time and time again it can deliver quality services at best value for taxpayers’ money,” Ms Osmond said.

“Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin already have bus networks that are completely managed by private operators, not government, and their experience is that franchising has delivered significantly better results across their networks.”

TTF’s 2016 report, On the Buses: The Benefits of Private Sector Involvement in the Delivery of Bus Services, claimed the government would save up to half a billion dollars over five years if Sydney Buses were run by a private operator.

The report also said privatisation would improve customer experience, increase operational efficiency and save taxpayers money that could be reinvested into public transport.

“Franchising also keeps the infrastructure, including the buses and depots, in public hands but contracts out the operation of these assets to experienced private operators for the period of the contract,” Ms Osmond said.

“Today’s [Monday] announcement the NSW Government will franchise the Inner West STA region is a very good start that hopefully signals a shift towards franchising more and more regions in due course.”
                    [post_title] => NSW Transport Minister throws State Transit under a bus
                    [post_excerpt] => Sydney’s inner-west services to go private.
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By Andy Young The NSW RSL is set to face an independent inquiry, which will look into allegations of financial misconduct which have plagued the organisation. The NSW State Government will reveal the details of the inquiry later today, but it will be headed by former NSW Supreme Court justice Patricia Bergin SC. It is expected the inquiry will have royal commission-like powers to compel witnesses to appear and be able to seize evidence. The inquiry comes after a series of allegations of financial rorting by the RSL's NSW branch, which have already seen an inquiry by Australia's charities watchdog. In December former NSW RSL president Don Rowe was referred to NSW Police over claims he used his corporate credit card to withdraw $200,000 in cash. NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean today told the ABC, that enough was enough and it was time to be clear on what was happening at the RSL. "We will get to the bottom of these allegations once and for all," Kean said. "These are serious complaints and the fact that they've allegedly been committed in the name of one of our oldest and most respected institutions is totally unacceptable. "We want to clean up the mess and make sure it never happens again." Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott told Fairfax Media that he was "completely fed up". "Based on the emails, letters and conversations I have with veterans around NSW, as well as their sub-branches, there is overwhelming support for the government to intervene," Elliott said. "It is heartbreaking to see the NSW RSL trashed in such a way and this is an opportunity to restore public confidence in this iconic organisation." Ministers Elliott and Kean will address media this afternoon to announce the full details of the inquiry.   This story first appeared in The Shout. 
[post_title] => NSW Government to launch independent RSL inquiry [post_excerpt] => Amidst allegations of financial rorting. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-government-launch-independent-rsl-inquiry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-16 15:50:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-16 05:50:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27126 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27112 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 11:41:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:41:48 [post_content] => By Charles Pauka   While Scott Morrison’s 2017 Federal Budget has been praised for some of its big announcements for freight and infrastructure, the shortage of immediate commitment has earned it the moniker of the “planning to plan budget”. The positive The Australian Logistics Council’s Michael Kilgariff heaped praise on the budget. “The Government should be commended for making clear commitments to two significant infrastructure projects crucial to the freight and logistics industry,” said the ALC managing director. “The transformative potential of the Inland Rail project has been talked about for decades, with incremental progress being made over the past several years, including a positive assessment of the business case by Infrastructure Australia. The $8.4 billion commitment announced in the Treasurer’s speech will finally allow its construction. At long last, we can stop merely talking about this project’s potential, and instead begin to witness it. “Establishing a safe, reliable port-to-port rail link for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane is the only way we can simultaneously meet Australia’s burgeoning freight task, alleviate congestion on existing freight networks, create regional jobs and boost growth,” he said. “To fully unleash the benefits of this project, the line must run to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane, and comprise efficient rail linkages to the ports of Botany, Kembla and Newcastle in NSW. We must also support the development of intermodal freight hubs at appropriate intervals along the route.”   Read more here. This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics and News.  [post_title] => Budget 2017: wishful thinking [post_excerpt] => Infrastructure and freight announcements. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27112 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:44:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:44:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27112 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27106 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 11:29:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:29:31 [post_content] => First medicinal cannabis import: CanniMed cannabis oil.    Seriously ill Australians can now access imported medicinal cannabis after the first licensed imports of the drug arrived in Perth last week. The drug was imported by Australian wholesale company Health House International and ASX-listed cannabis company Creso Pharma, a Swiss company. The cargo contained three different types of cannabis oil from Canadian company CanniMed, each designed to tackle different symptoms and retailing for about $350 a bottle, which should last patients about a month. The federal government gave the go ahead for companies to grow and manufacture medicinal cannabis late last year but it will still be a while before patients can access Australian product, said Health House Director Paul Mavor. Mr Mavor said it would take some time for companies to get permission to set up their operations and then get them reinspected and licensed. “Within 12 to 24 months we will be starting to see some really good [Australian] product and hopefully we will be exporting that,” Mr Mavor said. Health House International was granted one of the first medicinal cannabis import licences in February, soon after Health Minister Greg Hunt gave the go ahead to fast-track medicinal cannabis imports while local cultivation catches up. Australian product should be cheaper for patients as there will be much lower shipping costs and no freight duties but this will also depend on domestic (and possibly overseas) demand and whether companies can achieve economies of scale. Around 100,000 Canadians currently use medicinal cannabis and Mr Mavor is predicting about 70,000 Australians will eventually follow suit. Interestingly, Mr Mavor said that he had been speaking to some private insurance funds who had indicated they may be interested in subsidising the drug for some people, for example, those involved in car crashes or war veterans, because it could keep them out of hospital and keep costs down. In a few years it is possible that medicinal cannabis will be listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, once it has been tested in the local market, says Mavor. “It is likely. Some conditions that some patients are using medical cannabis for, they don’t have any other options.” Cannabis is cost-effective because it has five different uses in one hit: it can relieve nausea, vomiting, anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. Health House International's Paul Mavor. Pic: Supplied.   But Mr Mavor said while demand in Australia is strong, the process for prescribing medicinal cannabis had been made torturously difficult by the federal government, which has left states and territories to set their own rules. Many demand that patients get approval from both the federal and state or territory health departments because the drug is listed as a Special Access category B drug. Federal legislation to make the drug category A, which would have allowed doctors to complete online form and obtain instant approval, was blocked in the senate this week by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Nick Xenophon team. Australian Greens Leader Dr Richard Di Natale said he was deeply disappointed that politicians had put the needs of terminally ill patients second to “their own political games”.  “Patients are currently waiting weeks and sometimes months for access to these treatments. This motion could have reduced that to a day or possibly hours,” Mr Di Natale said. “For some of these patients, speedy access to medicinal cannabis is the difference between being able to eat or wasting away. These changes add time, stress, and difficulty for terminally ill patients accessing medicinal cannabis.” Mr Mavor says the strictest prescription regime is in Western Australia, where a huge amount of information is demanded and approval must be sought from federal and state health departments and from the practitioner’s ethics board. He said the easiest system was in South Australia, where doctors could prescribe the drug for two months for patients at any one time and Queensland, Victoria and NSW were passable. Once prescription problems are ironed out the industry looks set to have a bright future ahead of it. David Russell, Chief Operating Officer of Creso Pharma said the first successful import of medicinal cannabis products into Australia was “a ground-breaking moment for patients and the medical industry”.  “The Australian market has been catching up with community expectations while the regulatory framework around medicinal cannabis was being developed,” Mr Russell said. “Now these products will allow patients to have the option of medicinal cannabis treatments if it is prescribed by their physician. This is particularly important given the unmet but often immediate need to access a timely medicinal cannabis supply across Australia.” To be prescribed medicinal cannabis products, patients must see a physician who is an authorised prescriber, or apply for SAS Category B prescription under the Therapeutic Goods Administration regulations. [post_title] => First medicinal cannabis imports arrive in Australia [post_excerpt] => Prescription rules hold patients up. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => first-medicinal-cannabis-imports-arrive-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:29:31 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:29:31 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27106 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27069 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-05 15:44:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-05 05:44:58 [post_content] => Aldi WA store wins appeal to sell alcohol, provided it doesn't chill it.      By James Wells  The WA Premier Mark McGown said he is “uncomfortable” that Aldi has successfully won an appeal to sell liquor in its Harrisdale store after an appeal. The Premier made the comments after the Aldi store at Harrisdale won an appeal to sell liquor – making it the third store within the German supermarket chain’s stores in Western Australia. "The Liquor Commission and the Director of Liquor Licensing are independent and make these decisions, but personally I'm uncomfortable with it," Mr McGowan was reported to have said. "The Director of Liquor Licensing takes into account all the community feedback and the like before making these decisions, but personally as I said I don't like alcohol been sold in supermarkets but it's something outside my control,” McGowan said. The Aldi Harrisdale store, located in a suburb in south-eastern Perth with a population of 3807 people, initially had its proposal to sell wine as low as $2.79 across three different SKUs, even though a licence in the same area was granted to Woolworths.   Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.  [post_title] => WA premier ‘uncomfortable’ with Aldi liquor win [post_excerpt] => But beer can't be cold. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wa-premier-uncomfortable-aldi-liquor-win [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-05 15:44:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-05 05:44:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27069 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27059 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-05 15:15:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-05 05:15:39 [post_content] =>   By Kymberley Martin Support for the Federal Government among small and medium businesses (SMBs) has dipped to its lowest level since Malcolm Turnbull took over as Prime Minister, according to the latest Sensis Business Index (SBI) survey. “After we saw Malcolm Turnbull take over as Prime Minister in 2015 we saw confidence in the government rise, with businesses telling us they were optimistic about the change, ” Sensis chief executive, John Allan said. However, since then the government’s approval rating has fallen nine points and is 20 points lower than the highest score under Tony Abbott, following the pro-business 2015 Federal Budget. “To find a lower score we need to go back to the March 2015 survey, which was taken after Tony Abbott had survived a leadership spill. While perceptions of the economy remain strong, less than one in seven businesses have faith in the government’s policies, with the biggest concerns being excessive bureaucracy and red tape, as well as there being too much focus on the interests of big business,” Allan said. The Index, which reflects the views of 1,000 small and medium businesses from across Australia, also revealed that despite a tough quarter for the Government the long term projections for the economy have improved to their best level in 2 ½ years. Read more here.   This story first appeared on Appliance Retailer.  [post_title] => Support for Turbull dips from small and medium businesses [post_excerpt] => State by state results. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => support-turbull-dips-small-medium-businesses [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-05 15:15:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-05 05:15:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27059 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27047 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-04 15:28:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-04 05:28:59 [post_content] => Corruption and Crime Commission head John McKechnie. Pic: YouTube.  Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) has denounced the former Chief Executive of Exmouth Shire Council for serious misconduct after he flouted local government tender rules on a multi-million dollar project; fraudulently charged booze, cabs and hire cars to the council’s credit card; approved his own leave; faked documents; lied and chucked sickies. CCC head and former Supreme Court Judge John McKechnie QC found that the council’s CEO, Bill Price, did not put a $32 million contract for a science hub and aquarium at Ningaloo Reef out to tender; charged personal expenses to the corporate credit card; approved his own leave or did not log any leave; did dodgy deals for friends and covered up his wrongdoing when he realised the CCC was onto him after council officers tipped them off. Mr McKechnie said: “Any good that he had done was overshadowed by his arrogation of power. He was a law unto himself. “Serious misconduct flourishes when there is inadequate governance, whether due to friendship, ignorance or some other reason. Serious misconduct flourished in Exmouth.” Disgraced Exmouth Council CEO Bill Price. Pic: LinkedIn He said the CEO should set standards of honesty and integrity for Exmouth Council staff, “If the CEO is rorting the system, how can council, ratepayers or staff have any confidence in the executive?” The report also slammed the council for showing “stunning indifference” to Mr Price’s egregious behaviour, despite being alerted to it by the CCC. In fact, the council gave him an extra two weeks’ annual leave while the investigation was in full swing. The council only acted when the Minister for Local Government and Communities, Paul Miles, intervened. The CCC found that Mr Price:
  • Saddled Exmouth Council with a possible $1 million debt after signing a contract with a new company with no assets that it had failed to investigate
  • Lied to the council about it and forged documents
  • Had never had his leave approved by any of the three councils he had worked in as CEO
  • Used the council’s credit card to pay for dinners, hire cars, alcohol and taxis while on leave or relaxing at the weekend
  • Faked a sick day and went to the Perth Caravan and Camping Show instead
  • Concocted a fictitious rental agreement to give his friend (also employed by the council) tax-free income he was not entitled to
Exmouth Council dismissed Mr Price in December 2016 and the CCC has recommended charges be laid against him. Councillors were suspended for six months and mandated to do training. A new CEO, Cameron Woods, was appointed on April 27. Mr McKechnie said that Exmouth Council’s failings were symptomatic of the ‘structural weaknesses in local government’ in the state as a whole and said that 34 of the state's local councils were at high or medium risk of corruption.  All of the 16 high risk councils were in regional WA and 16 of the remaining 18, which were classed as medium risk, were in rural areas. The structural weaknesses identified included:
  • A culture of entitlement
  • Flouting of local government policy
  • Very significant procurement and contract management left to administrators who were not necessarily properly qualified, experienced or monitored
  • Councillors ill-equipped to manage complex and often high-stakes activities, particularly in procurement and contract management
  • Confusion among councillors about what they can ask administrative staff
  • Difficulty and conflicts arising for people aware of potentially corrupt activity but reticent to speak up
Mr McKechnie told ABC radio that procurement was the area of council business most vulnerable to corruption, probably because of the risk created by close friendships, particularly in smaller places. "The issue is in procurement, lax governments and often people who are friends and, quite bluntly, incompetence - people who have not got the skills to manage budgets of many millions of dollars or oversight a CEO who may arrogantly assert power," Mr McKechnie said. "If I give you tickets to shows, pay for holidays or renovations at your house at cut prices, who's to know? "You have to recognise that friendship is one thing but when you are elected to a position, ignorance is no longer an excuse. You are responsible for governance of that local authority and cannot let friendship or ignorance get in the way of good governance." The scandal has led to WA Auditor-General Colin Murphy being given powers to audit local councils in the future. But WA Local Government Association president Lynne Craigie said the report unfairly tarred all WA local councils with the same brush and she rejected suggestions of widespread mismanagement among the state’s regional councils. “The local government sector accepts significant issues with a small number of councils and does not set out to defend those who have done wrong, but also should not share in the blame,” Ms Craigie said. “For the CCC Commissioner to claim that councils have very little idea of their responsibilities or don’t have the required skills is an unfair generalisation and an insult to most who work hard for their communities.” [post_title] => Council CEO ‘a law unto himself’ says Corruption and Crime Commission head [post_excerpt] => Ratepayers pay for council boss’ booze, cabs and dinners. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27047 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-04 15:28:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-04 05:28:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27047 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27037 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-03 11:43:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-03 01:43:05 [post_content] =>   By Linda Cheng The NSW government‘s contentious plan to relocate the Powerhouse Museum from Ultimo near Sydney’s CBD to Parramatta in Western Sydney could result in the museum’s collections being shared between the two sites. In April, the NSW government said the relocation plans “could include keeping some Powerhouse presence at the current site in Ultimo.” The government also said it was “committed to building a truly iconic museum on the Parramatta Riverbank site,” which was selected as its preferred site in April 2016. In February 2015, the NSW government announced plans to sell the current site of the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo, part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, for an estimated $200 million, which would be used to fund the construction of a new museum in western Sydney. Read more here.   This story first appeared in ArchitectureAU and appears here by kind permission of the author.  [post_title] => Hopes Powerhouse Museum Ultimo could stay [post_excerpt] => Museum collection could be shared. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27037 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-05 11:55:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-05 01:55:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27037 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27006 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-02 12:33:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-02 02:33:00 [post_content] =>     Woollahra Council is bracing itself for a High Court showdown with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as it continues to struggle against the government’s plans to merge it with Randwick and Waverley Councils. The Eastern Sydney suburbs council will head to the High Court on May 12 in an attempt to secure leave to appeal a decision that went against it in the NSW Supreme Court of Appeal last December when three judges unanimously threw out its appeal against the forced merger. Woollahra Council has already faced the NSW government in the Land and Environment Court but its case was dismissed out of hand by Chief Judge Brian Preston in July 2016, who also awarded costs against the council. Save Our Councils Coalition spokesman Phil Jenkyn, an ex-barrister, said the council’s success in being granted an appeal rested on demonstrating that it was arguing an important point of law that had implications for other cases – an argument that he said was reasonable - and whether there had been an error of law in the December court judgement. The council has argued before that the full KPMG report, which the government relied upon to make its case for the savings from council mergers, should have been given to councils and delegates before public hearings. Delegate reports containing recommendations on whether councils should merge or stand alone were given to the Boundaries Commission after the hearings. If Woollahra Council is blocked from appealing Government News understands that there are plans to form an Eastern suburbs residents’ group that could take up cudgels, emboldened by Ku-ring-gai Council’s win in March. It has been an expensive battle for those councils who have stood up to the government. Woollahra has spent more than $1 million battling the merger, including community consultation costs.   Liberal mayor of Woollahra, Toni Zeltzer, has justified the council’s court cases saying that the majority of residents are opposed to the amalgamation and rates would soar between 20 and 50 per cent for Woollahra residents if it were amalgamated. Greens MP David Shoebridge, also an ex-barrister, said it was possible for a third party to run a fresh case based on the Ku-ring-gai decision, which he said showed the illegitimacy of the government’s forced merger agenda based on secret documents. “[Woollahra Council] know they got a job done on them, they have got their residents’ support. I would be surprised if they didn’t throw their support around a viable legal challenge,” Mr Shoebridge said. The KPMG report took centre stage during a NSW Court of Appeal case in March when Ku-ring-gai Council argued that the government’s suppression of part of the report had denied it procedural fairness. The council won its case and the court decided that the delegate’s report to the Boundaries Commission, which recommended a merger with Hornsby Shire, be thrown out. The NSW government has yet to state whether it will abandon the merger or commission a new delegate’s report. The Ku-ring-gai decision, which the government chose not to appeal, has given renewed hope to councils still fighting mergers in the courts, including Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney and Strathfield. These councils had their cases heard at the beginning of April and are waiting to hear their judgements, which could take months. Mr Shoebridge said the government’s failure to appeal the Ku-ring-gai decision was telling. “The Ku-ring-gai judgement doesn’t just give the councils hope, it gives them an extremely strong legal basis to impugn every one of those cases of forced amalgamation. It’s a compelling decision which supports all those councils that have maintained the fight,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The basic political truth is that if you don’t fight you lose. I think residents should be very critical of their former council leadership if they didn’t take up the legal fight.” But Mr Shoebridge conceded that the courts would be unlikely to unpick the council mergers last May, when more than 40 local councils were forced to merge into 19, because of the complexity, upheaval and expense. Mr Jenkyn said the Ku-ring-gai judgement demonstrated that forced mergers had not be a fair dinkum process. “How can you say there are all these billions of dollars being saved when all these expert reports say that what happened on the ground in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and Canada [after mergers] say rates grew and there were big inefficiencies?” He said Woollahra’s High Court challenge could lead to the full KPMG report being subpoenaed, which he said could “bring down the government” if the contents showed the government colluded with KPMG. Meanwhile NSW Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said the government was committed to the merger of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Councils 'given the clear benefits it will have for the local communities'. "There are a series of matters before the courts, including the High Court matter in Woollahra, which is why the government is not considering one case in isolation," Ms Upton said.    Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter.    [post_title] => Woollahra Council set for High Court showdown with Berejiklian over merger [post_excerpt] => Residents could take up the fight if council loses. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => woollahra-council-set-high-court-showdown-berejiklian-merger [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-03 10:03:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-03 00:03:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27006 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26994 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-04-28 11:43:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-28 01:43:21 [post_content] =>

The Canberra school cleaners who took their underpayment claim to the Federal Court. Source: United Voice   By Claire Hibbit 
A Canberra-based cleaning company, which was contracted to clean 10 public schools in the ACT, has been found guilty of Fair Work Act breaches for underpayments. United Voice launched the case against Philip Cleaning Services on behalf of 22 workers in 2015, alleging in court documents that some of the cleaners were owed almost $25,000. Of the 22 workers, 19 are S’gaw Karen refugees from Myanmar and Thailand, who spent two decades in refugee camps in Thailand before being resettled in Australia. According to United Voice, the permanent part-time school cleaners were pressured into signing contracts they did not understand, variously paid from different business entities (without explanation either to the workers or the ACT Government) and routinely exposed to unsafe working conditions. Read more here. This story first appeared in INCLEAN.
[post_title] => Canberra school cleaning company guilty of Fair Work Act breaches [post_excerpt] => Some workers owed almost $25k. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => canberra-cleaning-company-guilty-fair-work-act-breaches [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-28 11:43:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-28 01:43:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26994 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26984 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-28 11:24:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-28 01:24:55 [post_content] =>   Will Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce succeed in herding public servants out of Canberra?   The recent controversy surrounding the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) away from Canberra to Armidale and the National’s push to force government departments to justify why they should remain in Canberra has helped reignite debate around regional development. So too has intensifying anxiety around house prices in Sydney and Melbourne and the rising despair of first home buyers and renters, which federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has indicated will be a cornerstone of his May Budget. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, whose New England electorate takes in Armidale, and National’s Deputy Leader Fiona Nash have led the charge to eject cadres of Canberra’s public servants into the regions, despite the APVMA relocation failing the government’s own cost-benefit analysis and being fiercely opposed by most of its workers and the National Farmers’ Federation. More than 80 per cent of APVMA staff, many of whom are highly specialised scientists, have refused to up sticks for Armidale. APVMA’s chief Kareena Arthy quit the agricultural chemicals agency one week ago for a job as Deputy Director-General of Enterprise Canberra, rather than move. But Nash and Joyce won’t let go. Ms Nash has said that regional Australians “have just as much right to a government career as Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra residents”. “The fact is most moves of government departments to the regions will save money on rent and rates. It’s also fact the vast majority of employees in government departments don’t need to visit the Minister’s office in Parliament House,” Ms Nash said. “Indeed two thirds of Australian government jobs are already outside Canberra, many of them in Melbourne and Sydney.” Sydney University Emeritus Professor Frank Stilwell, a political economist who has written widely on regional development, says targeting public sector jobs in Canberra is a furphy when Sydney and Melbourne are the most overheated. Prof Stilwell says Canberra’s creation back in the early 1900s as the nation’s independent capital city, was designed to decentralise economic activity away from Sydney and Melbourne. “It was a counter magnet for the overdevelopment of the eastern seaboard. Frankly [moving jobs out of Canberra] just doesn’t make sense to me,” he says. Creating Canberra was “socially legitimate and long-term and did not involve politicians pork barrelling for their own electorate”. The critical mass of public servants in Canberra allows for interactions between agencies, knowledge clusters and greater staff mobility. Australian National University Emeritus Professor of political science John Warhurst agrees that Canberra is the wrong target for decentralisation. “It is actually the best Australian example of decentralisation to the bush that there is. It is a bush capital. The Nationals should be proud of this national achievement rather than try to undermine it,” he wrote, in a piece for Fairfax yesterday (Thursday). “Furthermore, Canberra is still quite a small city, dependent on public service employment.” Prof Stilwell says APVMA’s relocation looks especially ill-advised since it is not backed up by the Ernst and Young cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the government and foisting the move on staff was unlikely to be popular. “It is very disruptive for anybody. Many people have already invested in homes and have kids in schools. Not that Armidale is a backwater. It’s great for education and affordable real estate prices that are much more attractive than our overstressed capital cities. “If this [move] can’t work, maybe there is something wrong with the process. Shifting around the federal public service is just not really addressing the problem.” Prof Stilwell says that what is needed is a coherent strategy backed by all three tiers of government with state government leading the way to address the overcentralisation in Sydney and Melbourne, “that’s where the action needs to be”, he says. While he won’t be drawn on which state government departments or agencies should go bush, he says he would target relatively autonomous, footloose agencies that were not linked into a political cluster where staff needed to interact. There has already been some decentralisation, such as moving the ATO to Gosford. But he says it takes political will to plan decentralise jobs and growth and this kind of co-operation and nation building has not happened since Whitlam’s national regional strategy in the 1970s, which bit the bullet after three years when Malcolm Fraser was elected. “It’s not pie in the sky, it just hasn’t happened for a long, long time in Australia. It needs to have cross-party support or it will get switched on and off when the government changes.” He says this vision has never been reinstated, other than the Building Better Cities program under the Hawke government and led by Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe. A national strategy would need to be underpinned by research to investigate long-term, sustainable policy options alongside a willingness to invest in rural and regional infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, public housing and roads. “State governments have to be the leading agencies but they’re not going to do it unless there’s a national plan because otherwise they are in competition with each other.” The government should also focus on enticing private businesses to the regions, not just the public sector. For example by offering preferential payroll tax rates, developing industrial parks, building public housing and other infrastructure such as fast rail links between state capitals, with stops on the way to develop two or three regional centres in each state. “It’s a complex process. They just need time to get everyone used to the idea, get everyone committed so that eventually it develops its own inevitable momentum. While it’s a [political] football and controversial it’s not going to tick any of the boxes of economic viability,” Prof Stilwell says. Regional development has received further attention with the transplantation of the UK City Deals program to Australia, where capital investment is funnelled into particular regions around cities with targets for infrastructure and growth. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull known to be a fan of the project and early Australian cities deals have already been signed for Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney. Regional development must be addressed because the consequences of not pursuing it are high: unequal distribution of jobs, wealth and growth and loss of social connection in regional areas on the one hand; congestion, inflated house prices and environmental degradation for city dwellers on the other. “It’s a win-win, when it is done well,” Prof Stilwell adds. The Productivity Commission’s initial report Transitioning Regional Economies says that regional development should be pursued in the light of the end of the mining boom, the slow growth of agriculture jobs due to technology and rising productivity and manufacturing sector shrinkage to make regional areas and their people more resilient. [post_title] => Target Sydney and Melbourne public sector jobs, not Canberra [post_excerpt] => APVMA debate rages on. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => target-sydney-melbourne-public-sector-jobs-not-canberra [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-28 11:24:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-28 01:24:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26984 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27182 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 10:47:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 00:47:59 [post_content] => Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash. Pic: Colin Bettles.    Local councils have called upon the federal government to be transparent about its decentralisation drive and make it evidence-based and free from politicking, rather than leaving them to battle one another for government jobs, a public inquiry has heard. A public hearing in Townsville last week (Friday) was the first time most regional councils have been able to make their feelings known about the possibility of moving public servants from Australia’s capital cities out into rural and regional areas. The federal government decentralisation initiative, spearheaded by Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, has put government ministers on notice. Ministers have been told to justify why jobs and departments should stay in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne or to nominate a region to move to by December. Ms Nash has said the criteria for assessment will be finalised by mid-2017. There are currently 155,000 public servants, or 14 per cent of the APS, located outside capital cities. The hearing was part of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee’s inquiry into the relocation of Commonwealth departments and specifically into the potential impact of the controversial plan to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) form Canberra to the northern NSW town of Armidale, in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate, by 2019. The APVMA relocation, which involves about 190 staff, most of whom are highly specialised, failed a government-commissioned cost-benefit analysis and led to many staff walking out the door, including Chief Executive Kareena Arthy and some top regulatory scientists and lawyers. Ernst and Young estimated the move would cost at least $23.19 million. This includes redundancies for 85 per cent of the APVMA staff the report identified as unwilling to move to Armidale. The plan to move the agricultural chemicals regulator exposed the government to further ridicule after Ms Arthy​ revealed that Canberra-based public servants were working out of Armidale MacDonalds using the free wi-fi because they had nowhere else to work, at a February Senate Estimates’ hearing, a remark Ms Arthy later said was taken out of context. The situation blew up again after a document was leaked to Fairfax in April which gave APVMA staff suggested scripted replies to recite if they were asked about the relocation during "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings". The guidelines came from APVMA’s Chief Operating Officer Stefanie Janiec. Meanwhile, Committee Chair Labor Senator Jenny Mcallister said last week’s public inquiry showed that councils wanted the decentralisation process depoliticised ‘rather than agencies or departments being moved on a minister's whim’. She said councils also felt bypassed by the federal government, which had not spoken to them about its decentralisation agenda. She said that while every council wanted public service jobs they should not have to individually petition ministers for favours. “The community can't have that confidence in Barnaby Joyce's decisions,“ Ms Mcallister said. “The Nationals should back Cathy McGowan's proposal for a broad inquiry into decentralisation as a first step to rebuilding that trust.“ Acting Chair of Regional Development Australia Townsville and West Queensland, Frank Beveridge agreed that every region ‘would fight tooth and nail’ to have even one government department in their backyard but he said it was important to ’get away from the politics and actually have some legitimate figures backing it up, supporting it‘. Fears that regional councils could cannabilise each other’s growth look to be well-founded. All the councils spruiked their own areas at the inquiry, whether talking up their internet connectivity, educational institutions, transport links or affordable housing and insisted their area was unique and should get Commonwealth jobs. Toowoomba and Gatton (which has the University of Queensland) were both vying for APVMA before the decison to move the authority to Armidale was finalised. Cessnock City Council Mayor Bob Pynsent said the application process needed to be open and fair to councils. “The process would need to be transparent, so that every local government area has the opportunity to apply. And when those assessments are made, the decision would not be a political one but be based on the criteria that have been made available to the people who have applied,“ Mr Pynsent said. Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said ‘transparency is extremely important to the community to provide confidence that we are doing the right thing‘ and Peter Hargreaves from Bendigo Council said the planned relocation ‘must be a planned process based on clear objectives’. Councils are keen to have the criteria for regional development made clear, for example, the importance of closeness to a university, internet speed or available office space, and for regions to be properly defined. The Senate Committee will issue its report on June 9. [post_title] => Play fair on decentralisation, say councils at APVMA inquiry [post_excerpt] => Don’t make us fight each other for jobs. 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