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By Staff Writer

Victorian local councils have taken the unusual step of paying private detectives to hire prostitutes in order to gather evidence against illegal Melbourne brothels.
|
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) president Dick Gross says the legislation requiring the use of private investigators to expose illegal brothels was unfortunate and local councils should not be left to enforce what is also a joint responsibility for the police and Consumer Affairs Victoria.

“The MAV has made representations to the Government for several years following the dismissal of cases where councils were able to prove the offence,” he says.
“It is absolute madness that police refer complaints to councils, who must then use prosecution or enforcement under the Planning & Environment Act as the means to close down illegal brothels that often operate under the guise of relaxation or massage therapists.”

According to Victoria Police chief superintendent Chris Duthie, police, in consultation with councils, are available to assist in the investigation of illegal brothels “if the circumstances warrant it”.
“If that is the case appropriate personnel and resources will be allocated,” he says.

The City of Yarra says it had hired private investigators six times in the past two years to gather evidence about illegal brothels. A council spokesperson told The Age newspaper that on four occasions, this had involved investigators receiving a sexual service, enabling council to prosecute and close the premises down.

"One necessary element of the offence is that a sexual service is provided in the conduct of a business,” Cr Gross says.

Cr Gross called for changes to the relevant so councils can undertake successful enforcement of illegal operators without the need to go to such extraordinary lengths.

“Alternatively they should transfer this responsibility to the police and other State agencies.”

"It is an unfortunate reality that such extreme measures are expected of councils to get court-admissible evidence as a result of the current legislation and lack of cooperation between agencies,” he says.

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By staff writer

After a comparative council report revealed many NSW councils are taking longer than the stipulated 40 days to process development applications, debate rages over how to speed up the process.

A recent comparative council report card from the NSW Department of Local Government found the average processing time for a NSW development application was 54 days, with two in five councils taking longer than the 40-day limit set out in the Local Government Act.

The NSW Urban Taskforce, a group representing the development industry, suggested the process was hamstrung by bureaucracy, with most developments required to go through the public exhibition process.

According to Taskforce CEO Terry Barnes, many smaller residential projects, such as new homes which complied with regulations and extensions or alterations to existing dwellings, could be exempt from the exhibition process.

Local Government and Shires Association president, Genia McCaffery, has expressed concern that removing the consultation process could leave communities feeling left out.

"You do have to strike a balance. If the first you hear of your neighbour's development is when the bulldozers arrive in the backyard that's not a good process," told ALGA News

The approvals process was last reformed in April last year to allow for the implementation of independent hearing and assessment panels.

A spokeswoman for Planning Minister Frank Sartor said the panels would only target councils with systemic development problems.

She said the planning department was closely examining the figures, and collecting other data, to identify the bottlenecks.

Many councils had taken action to improve their processing times since the 2004-05 reporting period, and the government was working to attract more planners to NSW and assist with major redevelopment projects, the spokeswoman says.

One of the highest achievers in the report was Blacktown City Council, processing the greatest number of DAs, 3690 in an average 45 days per application.

“Blacktown City Council has a high level of delegated authority to council officers, which has a significant impact on reducing processing times,” says Blacktown City Council mayor, Leo Kelly.

“Where delegated authority is limited, processing times will always be high due to the need to report applications to Council meetings which may only be held once or twice a month.”

For more see the story Comparative council report criticised in the February edition of Government News magazine.

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The designation acknowledges the council’s work to create a safe and healthy environment for children and support them in free play, leisure and recreation. There are about six- to seven-thousand children under the age of six in the local government area.

City of Greater Bendigo, manager of children and family services, Rosalie Rogers, says becoming a Child Friendly City is about recognising children as citizens in their own right, not citizens in 20 years’ time.

“It’s about engaging with them – we’ve always engaged and consulted with children during the course of play but probably never taken on board their comments from a strategic point of view,” she says.
“It’s not necessarily about bricks and mortar, it’s about a philosophical approach of recognising that it’s a whole-of-community responsibility, from service providers to the average person in the street.”

Greater Bendigo sees its responsibility as a Child Friendly City as ensuring it gradually improves the local community to respond to the needs and rights of its young citizens.

As part of the federally funded Joining Together for Bendigo Children project, a UN official assisted the council to consult last year with local children to explore their vision for the community. The council will talk to a further 450 children across the municipality in the next few months, including Aborigines and those with disabilities.

Greater Bendigo is also working on auditing community premises for their level of child-friendliness, including accessibility and food preparation. Ms Rogers says the council plans to use the findings to create a resource on best practice approaches.

She says Greater Bendigo will benchmark against itself to make sure it delivers on its commitment to children. She hopes other councils will follow Greater Bendigo in examining their approach to children’s health and well being.

”We’ve always thought about children but I question whether the strategic approach has been there. It is only in the last five years that governments at all three tiers are suddenly listening to the evidence being presented by health experts about children’s needs.”
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By Staff Writer

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has announced changes to his Ministry, including two promotions to Cabinet, three new appointments to the outer Ministry and two new Parliamentary Secretaries.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone will depart the Ministry along with former Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave. Mr Hardgrave will be contesting the next election and the Prime Minister expressed confidence that he will retain the seat and continue with a successful parliamentary career.

Arts and Sports Minister, Rod Kemp, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Sandy Macdonald, agreed to step down and will not contest the next election.

Within the Cabinet, the Prime Minister announced a number of changes.

Former Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been elevated to Minister for The Environment and Water Resources, replacing Senator Ian Campbell who will assume the position of Minister for Human Services.

In addition, the former Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews has taken on the role of Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

The former Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey has been appointed Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

“Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Hockey have performed very strongly in their existing portfolios and both now take on important new responsibilities,” the Prime Minister said.

Two departments have undergone name changes with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs changing to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Reflecting growing concer over Australia’s most precious resource, the Department of the Environment and Heritage has become the Department of The Environment and Water Resources.

Within the outer Ministry the Federal Member for Goldstein, Andrew Robb, has been appointed to the portfolio of Vocational and Further Education.

The position of Minister for the Arts and Sport has been filled by a new ministerial appointment, Queensland Senator George Brandis.

The final change to the Ministry sees the appointment of Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, appointed to the portfolio of Minister for Community Services, in place of Federal Member for Parkes, John Cobb.

Peter Lindsay becomes the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence and Tony Smith becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Federal Member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, has become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Federal Member for Petrie, Teresa Gambaro, has become Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

The Prime Minister says there will continue to be 12 parliamentary secretaries within the new ministerial arrangements.

Notably, two of those 12 parliamentary secretaries will be assistant ministers in recognition of particular responsibilities they will each have and their relative seniority.

Those two appointments include the current Minister for Community Services, John Cobb, appointed to Parliamentary Secretary as Assistant Minister for The Environment and Water Resources.

The current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, has also been designated as an Assistant Minister.

The new Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries will be officially sworn in next Tuesday (January 30).

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By Staff Writers

As bands at summer music festivals crank it up to 11, young people in the audience will be encouraged to have their voice heard by enrolling to vote.

The Australian Electoral Commision (AEC) and triple j have joined forces on ‘Rock Enrol’, promoting electoral enrolment by 17 and 18 year olds at the Big Day Out concert series this month.

At each event, Rock Enrol teams will explain the steps to electoral enrolment, the AEC will email simple ‘how to’ guides and links to individuals providing details to the roving teams and Rock Enrol wristbands will be distributed to patrons aged 18.

Australian bands will endorse electoral enrolment at each Big Day Out and some have provided video messages of support for the initiative’s website.

It is expected the campaign will reach an audience of more than 180,000 young people Australia-wide, with many first time voters at this year’s federal election.

“Currently around one in two 18 year olds are on the electoral roll and Rock Enrol is all about doing something to help get everybody enrolled and ready to vote,” says the AEC’s Phil Diak.

For more information see www.rockenrol.com.au

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By Jane Garcia

John Bowler has been returned responsibility for the local government portfolio in Western Australia – a move welcomed by the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) following tension with the State Government over proposed changes to local government election processes last year.

Mr Bowler was first appointed Minister for Local Government in February 2005 and served in the portfolio until a cabinet reshuffle in February 2006.

He told www.governmentnews.com.au that he had been disappointed at the loss of the portfolio as he felt he had built up a good rapport with WALGA and individual councils. Mr Bowler plans to once again embark on an ambitious effort to visit most of the state’s 142 councils, a task he managed to complete in his previous 12-month appointment.

“Smaller towns really appreciate you taking the time off to visit them,” he says.
“They can take you to see the local issues and get a better appreciation of what is happening.”

Mr Bowler concedes that the State Government’s Local Government Amendment Bill 2006 had led to “a breakdown in communication and a misunderstanding” with WA councils, and he would work to enhance the relationship between the two spheres of government.

WALGA president Bill Mitchell said in a statement that the Association was “extremely enthusiastic” about working again with Mr Bowler and he had taken a genuine interest in working with the sector to build communities in the past.

One of the Local Government Minister’s key goals for this year are to assist councils that voluntarily decide an amalgamation would strengthen their sustainability; and, in cases where a strong case for a merger does not exist or lacks support, to facilitate greater resource sharing and the integration of back-end functions between councils and groups of councils.

On January 9, he announced the State Government will commit $750,000 to assist the Shire and Town of Northam in an amalgamation. The two local governments have already received a grant of $25,000 and were given $100,000 to explore operation aspects required for a smooth transition for a potential amalgamation.
If the proposed amalgamation goes ahead next year, they will receive $600,000 to implement the merger.

It is the sixth time in six years there has been a change in local government minister, according to WALGA.
Former Local Government Minister, Jon Ford, remains as Minister for Fisheries; Regional Development; and Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne.

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By Jane Garcia

Lismore residents have been encouraged to challenge stereotypes and engage in conversation with diverse members of the community at the launch of Australia’s first Living Library in November last year.

The ‘books’ in the Living Library are actually people representing groups in the community who may experience some kind of negative stereotyping or prejudice, or are in some ways marginalised. Community members can ‘borrow’ these living books for a half-hour conversation and ask them as many questions as they want to.

At the launch, Lismore City Council in NSW had 32 living books for borrowing, including a Buddhist, Muslim, people with disabilities, an Aboriginal elder and young person, older people, a Sudanese refugee, a police officer and a man living with HIV.

One-hundred-and-seventy people turned up on the day, and no book was left on the shelf for too long, with a total of about 80 borrowings.

“The idea of the library is to bring people together who wouldn’t ordinarily meet in the community,” said Lismore’s community development officer, Shauna McIntyre.
"It was the most extraordinary experience because we were on the ground floor area of the library and at one point I put my head up and there was such a buzz of conversation happening.
“We had some naughty readers at the launch who read a book for one-and-a-half hours because they got so involved in it.”

Ms McIntyre said people took risks on the day, stepped out of their comfort zone and really benefited from having a half- hour’s conversation with someone they would not normally ordinarily meet. For example, her 86-year-old mother-in-law attended the event and the deeply Christian woman borrowed the gay man.

A post-event survey found 98 per cent of readers said they had learnt something by borrowing a book, with one reader candidly writing that “[I] learned that not all Aboriginal people get drunk and violent” and another saying “many of my assumptions were wrong”.

“There’s been this great ripple effect, for example I know from my mother-in-law that there’s a number of people she has had conversations with about her experience. It’s not just about the conversation that happens between two people but then she goes to the group she’s involved in and shares her experiences, and that encourages other people to come along and break down barriers,” Ms McIntyre said.

Although the council planned to run the Living Library as a one-off event, due to popular demand it will now become an ongoing event on every first Friday of the month.

The Local Government Women’s Association (NSW) is holding its annual conference in Lismore in May and the organisers have approached the council to see if it could hold a living library at the conference.

Ms McIntyre said the living library was a powerful strategy for promoting community harmony, and very inexpensive to run, with the launch event costing less than $5000.

“We can definitely say this works,” she said.
”People concerned about the broader background of divisions in our society and communities, well this is a really successful yet simple initiative that promotes social cohesion. It brings together people who wouldn’t normally meet and through the simple act of conversation they get to know one another and you can’t maintain the same prejudices you may have held once you get to know someone.”

Meanwhile, Bayside City Council in Victoria will run Victoria’s first Living Library to tie in with the ‘Living in Harmony’ theme of its Library Week in May.


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In a bid to foster support for federal tax incentives for investment in community infrastructure, Wollongong City Council has recently issued a discussion paper on strategies to attract investors.

The Local Government Infrastructure Bonds Discussion Paper aims to foster debate on advancing inter-governmental acceptance of local government capital funding through the use of Infrastructure Bonds [known as Municipal Bonds in North America] for future social infrastructure and other major capital works.

Council is embarking on a range of large scale projects to maintain, replace and build infrastructure over coming decades, in conjunction with a suite of new planning instruments.

As part of exploration of funding opportunities, Council are looking to obtain infrastructure funding through debt in the form of bonds issued directly to its community and supported by tax incentives.

 “The Allan Inquiry report into the Financial Sustainability of Local Government in NSW flagged a $6.3 billion shortfall in infrastructure funding in NSW growing to $14.6 billion by 2021,” said Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Rod Oxley.

“The report proves an annual gap of $900 million in current maintenance funding. This scenario is generally replicated across most Australian states and I see it as time to ignite the debate on sensible debt funding for infrastructure provision.”

The discussion paper was prepared by Council’s finance team after months of consultation and review across the broader finance industry and included major banks, boutique advisory firms and other local government authorities.

 “Council recently adopted a City Centre Revitalisation Plan that comes with a $400M+ capital bill which will not alone be funded by taxes, levies or rates. This is in addition to the soon to commence West Dapto greenfield development, with an infrastructure price tag approaching $2 billion over the next 40 years. These will need to be delivered through a combination of traditional taxes and levies but also through Public Private Partnerships and through the prudent application of debt funding.”

“We will now advance discussion on this issue with a range of peak bodies. Our vision will be achieved if governments at all levels accept that debt, prudently applied and well managed is in fact the cheapest form of capital available,” Mr Oxley said.

“If supported by federal and state tiers and providing some form of tax relief for investors, as is the case elsewhere in the world, Australia will be able to close the burgeoning infrastructure gap much faster than through traditional methods.”

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NSW councils are pressing candidates at next year's State election to support initiatives worth $5 million annually to boost doctor and medical health facilities in rural and remote communities.

The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW recently launched their Rural General Practitioners Policy Platform, the first of several priority policy papers in the lead up to the elections in March 2007.

Among the remedies sought are clinical professional development for visiting medical officers ($3.2m); and provision of a manual for councils to support GP families upon location in new surroundings ($180,000).
 
Councils already spend more than $1.5 million per annum on health support services, which contribute to the $430 million in cost shifting each year estimated by the Allan Report.

The President of the Local Government Association, Cr Genia McCaffery, said isolated communities faced significant rural health challenges, and required more general practitioners, including a comprehensive locum service.

"There is an overall shortage and uneven distribution of doctors, compounded by an increasing demand for their services, and a decrease in clinical work hours.

"By 2012, the NSW Rural Doctors Network estimates the doctor shortage will rise from 275 to 410," Cr McCaffery said.

The President of the Shires Association, Cr Col Sullivan OAM, said councils had expressed concerns for more than a decade about the adequacy of general medical practices, ageing of the GP workforce, and deficiencies in public hospitals and other health services, including dental access.

"We have 30 councils providing 45 medical centres for 59 doctors at an annual cost of $465,000. Likewise, 26 councils provide 48 houses for 53 doctors, costing $540,000 each year.

"In the first instance, we want the State Government to introduce additional funding of $5 million a year. They should collaborate with the Federal Government to deliver joint initiatives so this ongoing shortage can be plugged," Cr Sullivan said.

For the 2007 State Election Rural General Practitioners Policy Platform visit http://www.lgsa.org.au/www/html/1315-election-policy-platform.asp

See attachment which looks in detail over a wide number of specified council assistance programs to rural and regional NSW here: http://www.lgsa.org.au/www/html/265-rural-health.asp

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By Adam Coleman

Local governments can’t rely on revenue from rates if it is to facilitate regional development and should consider redistributing funds to economic development projects, according to a new report.

Commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the State of the Regions Report 2006-07, says that many Australian councils are faced with low development productivity and rapidly ageing populations.

Councils must have adequate resources to break out of this vicious cycle and to attract industry for productivity driven growth, the report says.

Authors of the report, National Economics believes councils’ ability to raise rate revenue is constrained by household income and business productivity.

The group claims that high land values, relative to income, can cut the capacity of councils to raise revenue “because it can lead to higher numbers of high debt households with reduced household disposable incomes”.

According to National Economics deputy director, Ian Manning, many councils have an unused borrowing capacity, which “could very well be used in infrastructure investments which they believe will increase the rate base”.

“It’s quite a reasonable commercial proposition. Such infrastructure investments do exist. They can be anything from roads to industrial state development, skills development or regional promotion,” Mr Manning told governmentnews.com.au.

National Economics estimates councils need an injection of $2.3 billion to bring lagging regions nearer the average standard for regional growth and the provision of infrastructure attractive to business and desirable population levels.

Mr Manning suggests there is an opportunity for councils to redistribute funds towards economic development projects.
“You can some times get some admin efficiencies out of joint working, particularly in the states were the councils remain small in size.

“Now that doesn’t mean that councils have many areas that they can cut easily, though sometimes we think there are some councils that might be able to cut a bit of [funding to] roads.  It’s always a big expenditure item, so it is always worth looking at very carefully,” he says.

The local government role in economic development has become more complicated, with keeping the manufacturing sector in a region vital to local economic growth.

The report singled out ageing populations as a challenge for regional development.

“If you have a high proportion of retirees in your population, firstly you don’t get much in the way of skilled labour supply, their rate paying capacity is pretty low, they may have quite valuable properties but their cash flow is small. So from a council point of view they are actually a fairly high needs group,” says Mr Manning.

“Councils are very well placed to provide services to that group efficiently but on the other hand they are very badly placed to finance it. We actually recommended that they should not attempt to get into services for the elderly, except in so much that they are financed by the commonwealth and the state. They shouldn’t do it out of their own funds. Some councils do and they quite often get burnt.”

National Economics says the central development objective for local government areas is to maximise productivity and for that it needs resources to supplement rate revenue.

The benefits of higher productivity are many it says, including increases in real wages, allowing firms to employ more highly skilled workers and improve profits, which in turn enables increased investment and boosted manufacturing capacity.

Mr Manning suggests that some councils have ‘unused rating capacities’.
“They have chosen to rate low. Now in NSW there is a lot of underrating but that is thanks to the state government. NSW rates consistently a percentage point below the rest of the country.”

There is also the capacity to boost research and development and boost exports according to the report.
Such support for councils would allow local government regions to boost growth in domestic demand and provide opportunities to replace imports with Australian products, thus strengthening Australia's skills pool, it says.

“There are a lot of councils that are struggling to provide to keep up with Australian standards. That’s very often through no fault of their own because they have a high needs area with low rate capacity,” says Mr Manning.


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By Staff Writer

An international poll aimed at raising the profile of mayors worldwide has voted Melbourne’s Lord Mayor John So as the world's best mayor for 2006.

More than 103,000 people from around the world voted on 677 mayors as part of World Mayor, an internet-based project organised by City Mayors, an international organisation working to promote local government.

Mr So said in a statement that he was delighted to be elected World Mayor 2006.

“The honour belongs to the amazing people of this wonderful city and the hard working team at the City of Melbourne,” he said.

Born in southern China and moved to Melbourne when he was 17 years old, Mr So completed school and university in the city before embarking on a teaching and business career.

After entering politics as a councillor at the City of Melbourne in 1991, he was elected as Melbourne’s first popularly elected Mayor in 2001 and was re-elected for a second term in November 2004.

The only Australian mayor to be short listed for the award, Mr So said Melbourne is a great place to live.

“Melbourne is a passionate, diverse and sophisticated city with a precious indigenous tradition,” he said.

In July 2001, Mr So became the first directly-elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne, defeating several high-profile candidates, including Australian Democrats founder, Don Chipp.

He will be presented with the World Mayor award early in 2007.

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By Jane Garcia in Canberra

Councils are seeking resources to ramp up their contribution to addressing the detrimental impact of obesity on individuals and communities.

In a motion passed 67 to 61 at the National General Assembly of Local Government on Tuesday (November 28), delegates requested that the Federal Government provide $50 million each year for four years to fund significant eligible local government projects for providing cycling and walking infrastructure.

The mover of the motion, from Wollondilly Shire Council in NSW, said the funding could be allocated on a national basis along the lines of the Roads to Recovery program – creating ‘Cycleways to Recovery’ – and would create a deliberate, strategic plan to put in quality facilities and get people cycling.

Local government could use the funding to achieve quiet and safe alternative local transport routes; provide active recreational opportunities for residents and visitors; and create facilities that enhance community members’ physical and mental wellbeing.

Projects could include construction and maintenance of shared cycling and walking paths, on-road or off-road cycle lanes, facilities such as bike parking or shade and feasibility studies for large infrastructure projects involving walking and cycling.

During debate of the motion, some delegates expressed concern that walking and cycleways were not a priority for their area, with descriptions of the level of proposed funding as “over the top” and “all that money to go walking down the street”.

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By Jane Garcia in Canberra


Australian local government has created a five-part plan asking the Federal Government to build on the successful Roads to Recovery partnership on roads funding and broaden the agenda for a joint approach to the transport challenges affecting communities over the next ten years.

The Local Government Roads and Transport Strategy was launched this morning (November 30) at the National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra. It  evolved from a strategy developed at the Local Roads and Transport Congress in Launceston in 2005 and was refined at the same event in Alice Springs in July this year.

The strategy focuses on five key areas of the transport system:

* local road funding and management;
* urban transport;
* mobility and access for regional Australians;
* freight management; and
* long-term financial sustainability of local government.

“Urban councils are increasingly concerned with providing the type of infrastructure that is suitable for an aging population, congestion and the conflict between urban amenity and trucks noise and pollution,” Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Paul Bell told delegates.

 
“Regional and rural councils continue to have a very strong interest and need for road funding.  They also have concerns about access for their ageing populations, congestion and conflict with trucks particularly in major regional centres. 

 

“Regional councils also recognise that decisions outside their control, such as railway closures, have direct impacts on their road systems.  Many of these councils also have had airports thrust on to them and are no left with the financial burden of maintaining them.”


These issues have been refined into “a very eye-catching booklet which we aim to have on coffee tables all over Parliament House and the corridors of power”, he said.

 

According to Cr Bell, the strategy will remind Australian Government that the freight task facing Australia will not only occur on the main interstate routes but also on local roads.  Just about every freight journey begins and ends on a local road, irrespective of whether the interstate or inter-regional part of the journey is by road or rail, he said.


“Transport however is more than freight.  It is about providing access for our people as well as our industries.  With the aging of the population there is a need for increased access to transport alternatives both in urban and regional Australia ,” Cr Bell said.


The roads and transport strategy emphasises that Federal funding of transport infrastructure is not just a grant – it is an investment that will pay a dividend of improved economic efficiency and meeting community expectations. It also promotes that local government has the expertise, local knowledge and a proven record of delivery on transport issues, as demonstrated by the Roads to Recovery Programs.


ALGA, the state local government associations and individual councils will use the Local Government Roads and Transport Strategy to lobby their local members and the Federal Government directly, he said.


The strategy will be presented to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads and the Treasurer and Finance Minister on Monday. It will also be sent to ministers of the Federal Opposition in a bid to receive bipartisan support.


For a copy of the strategy see the ALGA website at www.alga.asn.au

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By Jane Garcia in Canberra

Australian local government has been invited to attend two major international congresses to be held in the Asia-Pacific region next year, and has passed a motion to share its expertise in abating greenhouse gas emissions with governments in India and China.

The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) will hold the World Congress of Local Government in Jeju, South Korea on October 28-31, 2008. The group was formed in 2004 and is made up of mayors and representatives from more than 100 cities around the world.

Australian Local Government Association president Paul Bell told the National General Assembly in Canberra this significant event would look at issues of how to continue to engage with local authorities, share information and "plant the seed" of local democracy. This was particularly important in light of recent challenges to local democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

Eun-Jung Cho, UCLG Congress 2007 manager, told delegates that the host city had proposed a congress theme of 'changing cities are driving our world', and that organisers were expecting 1500 mayors and representatives to attend the event.

The Commonwealth Local Government Association's Commonwealth Local Government Conference 2007 will be held for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region in Auckland, New Zealand from March 26-29 next year (2008). New Zealand Local Government Association CEO, Mike Reid, invited delegates to  "cross the ditch" and capitalise on the opportunity to meet and learn about the diversity of local government systems and innovation.

Meanwhile, the National General Assembly passed a motion yesterday afternoon (November 28) calling on the Federal Government to "seek an investigation into the feasability and benefits of a program to transfer Australian expertise in reducing greenhouse emissions to local and provincial governments in China and India".

Moved by the City of Norwood Payneham and St Peters in South Australia, the council noted that Australia's expertise though programs such as Cities for Climate Protection and in individual council action on climate change should be shared with these countries where some of the fastest growing economies in the world were expecting a subsequent increase in their emissions of greenhouse gases.

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By Staff Writer

Victorian local councils have taken the unusual step of paying private detectives to hire prostitutes in order to gather evidence against illegal Melbourne brothels.
|
Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) president Dick Gross says the legislation requiring the use of private investigators to expose illegal brothels was unfortunate and local councils should not be left to enforce what is also a joint responsibility for the police and Consumer Affairs Victoria.

“The MAV has made representations to the Government for several years following the dismissal of cases where councils were able to prove the offence,” he says.
“It is absolute madness that police refer complaints to councils, who must then use prosecution or enforcement under the Planning & Environment Act as the means to close down illegal brothels that often operate under the guise of relaxation or massage therapists.”

According to Victoria Police chief superintendent Chris Duthie, police, in consultation with councils, are available to assist in the investigation of illegal brothels “if the circumstances warrant it”.
“If that is the case appropriate personnel and resources will be allocated,” he says.

The City of Yarra says it had hired private investigators six times in the past two years to gather evidence about illegal brothels. A council spokesperson told The Age newspaper that on four occasions, this had involved investigators receiving a sexual service, enabling council to prosecute and close the premises down.

"One necessary element of the offence is that a sexual service is provided in the conduct of a business,” Cr Gross says.

Cr Gross called for changes to the relevant so councils can undertake successful enforcement of illegal operators without the need to go to such extraordinary lengths.

“Alternatively they should transfer this responsibility to the police and other State agencies.”

"It is an unfortunate reality that such extreme measures are expected of councils to get court-admissible evidence as a result of the current legislation and lack of cooperation between agencies,” he says.

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Sector

Councils pay PIs to hire prostitutes

By Staff Writer Victorian local councils have taken the unusual step of paying private detectives to hire prostitutes in order to gather evidence against illegal Melbourne brothels. | Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) president Dick Gross says the legislation requiring the use of private investigators to expose illegal brothels was unfortunate and local councils should not […]

Slow DA processing sparks reform debate

By staff writer After a comparative council report revealed many NSW councils are taking longer than the stipulated 40 days to process development applications, debate rages over how to speed up the process. A recent comparative council report card from the NSW Department of Local Government found the average processing time for a NSW development […]

Australia’s first Child Friendly City

Greater Bendigo in Victoria has become the first Australian city to be recognised as a Child Friendly City by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The designation acknowledges the council’s work to create a safe and healthy environment for children and support them in free […]

Prime Minister shuffles ministerial deck

By Staff Writer The Prime Minister, John Howard, has announced changes to his Ministry, including two promotions to Cabinet, three new appointments to the outer Ministry and two new Parliamentary Secretaries. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone will depart the Ministry along with former Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave. Mr Hardgrave will be contesting […]

Youth encouraged to Rock Enrol

By Staff Writers As bands at summer music festivals crank it up to 11, young people in the audience will be encouraged to have their voice heard by enrolling to vote. The Australian Electoral Commision (AEC) and triple j have joined forces on ‘Rock Enrol’, promoting electoral enrolment by 17 and 18 year olds at […]

Bowler’s second spell as local government minister

By Jane Garcia John Bowler has been returned responsibility for the local government portfolio in Western Australia – a move welcomed by the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) following tension with the State Government over proposed changes to local government election processes last year. Mr Bowler was first appointed Minister for Local Government in […]

Don’t judge a book by its cover

By Jane Garcia Lismore residents have been encouraged to challenge stereotypes and engage in conversation with diverse members of the community at the launch of Australia’s first Living Library in November last year. The ‘books’ in the Living Library are actually people representing groups in the community who may experience some kind of negative stereotyping […]

Infrastructure bonds an option for future funding

In a bid to foster support for federal tax incentives for investment in community infrastructure, Wollongong City Council has recently issued a discussion paper on strategies to attract investors. The Local Government Infrastructure Bonds Discussion Paper aims to foster debate on advancing inter-governmental acceptance of local government capital funding through the use of Infrastructure Bonds […]

Councils Say Enough! More Funding For Rural Health

NSW councils are pressing candidates at next year's State election to support initiatives worth $5 million annually to boost doctor and medical health facilities in rural and remote communities. The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW recently launched their Rural General Practitioners Policy Platform, the first of several priority policy papers in the lead […]

Rates alone won’t do for development

By Adam Coleman Local governments can’t rely on revenue from rates if it is to facilitate regional development and should consider redistributing funds to economic development projects, according to a new report. Commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the State of the Regions Report 2006-07, says that many Australian councils are faced with […]

Melbourne mayor recognised as world’s best

By Staff Writer An international poll aimed at raising the profile of mayors worldwide has voted Melbourne’s Lord Mayor John So as the world’s best mayor for 2006. More than 103,000 people from around the world voted on 677 mayors as part of World Mayor, an internet-based project organised by City Mayors, an international organisation […]

Cycleways to recovery

By Jane Garcia in Canberra Councils are seeking resources to ramp up their contribution to addressing the detrimental impact of obesity on individuals and communities. In a motion passed 67 to 61 at the National General Assembly of Local Government on Tuesday (November 28), delegates requested that the Federal Government provide $50 million each year […]

Launch of Local Government Roads and Transport Strategy

By Jane Garcia in Canberra Australian local government has created a five-part plan asking the Federal Government to build on the successful Roads to Recovery partnership on roads funding and broaden the agenda for a joint approach to the transport challenges affecting communities over the next ten years. The Local Government Roads and Transport Strategy […]

Councils pursue closer international connections

By Jane Garcia in Canberra Australian local government has been invited to attend two major international congresses to be held in the Asia-Pacific region next year, and has passed a motion to share its expertise in abating greenhouse gas emissions with governments in India and China. The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) will hold the […]