Bill’s bonanza: what I’ll give local government


Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten set out his party’s promises to local government (should Labor win the next election) at the National General Assembly in Parliament house earlier today.

Mr Shorten tackled areas such as infrastructure renewal, developing CBDs in outer city suburbs, domestic violence and getting more women into politics.

He said Labor would boost the powers and resources of Infrastructure Australia – and to put the organisation  “at the heart of capital investment and nation-building” while pledging to
consult the opposition  on every appointment to IA and to end the “squabbling and blame shifting” between political parties.

He said he would create a bipartisan world where IA based its decisions on the maximum benefits of projects to communities, the economy and productivity, “instead of worrying about what electorate a road or a train line runs through”.

But there was no mention of any offer to wind back the hated freeze of the Financial Assistance Grants to councils, which the Liberals Federal Budget froze for three years in 2014.

Mr Shorten said Labor would: appoint a Minister for Cities, reintroduce the Major Cities Unit, reconvene the Urban Policy Forum and make sure the State of Australian Cities report was published annually.

“When it comes to improving our cities, there is no better tool at our disposal…no more vital lever for the Commonwealth to pull … than investment in infrastructure,” Mr Shorten said.

“We need a national change in our infrastructure mindset and method,” he said.

“But that change must begin with those of us here in Canberra putting politics and partisanship aside.

“I want the Opposition of the day at the table helping us make the decisions – it’s a lot harder to argue and play politics if you’re inside the tent.”

Mr Shorten also signalled his enthusiasm that every level of government should co-operate on developing second and third CBDs in outer city suburbs.

Mr Shorten put his name to a $70 million interim package to deal with domestic violence, including a $15 million safe at home program and to fund: key changes and lock upgrades to doors and windows, sensor and security lighting, security screen doors, external CCTV cameras, training and monitoring alarm systems for women trying to escape domestic violence.

He also said Labor would hold a National Crisis Summit on Family Violence within 100 days of being elected.

“It’s a mundane list of practical things because we can do it, because every Australian woman has the right to be safe in her home,” Mr Shorten said.

“And delivering this measure, depends upon a strong partnership with local government.”

Getting more women into politics also attracted attention. He said local government was at the forefront of these efforts, with women accounting for one in three councillors, one in four mayors and one in ten council CEOs.

“The challenge is to encourage more women to run, to convince more women that local politics is a forum where they can make a difference,” he said.

“This responsibility, driving cultural change, is on all of us who serve: federal and local, women and men.

“There is nothing for us to fear, or to lose, from the march of women through the institutions of power.”

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