Queensland councils increase Budget pressure

By Julian Bajkowski

The Local Government Association of Queensland has issued its 10-point pre-Budget federal election wish list, putting roads and disaster funding reform at the forefront of its agenda.

The catalogue of demands comes as the federal government attempts to lock in the final preparations for the federal budget in May.

The document will is certain to be carefully analysed by the Gillard government that is desperately seeking a way to cut through to voters in practical terms in an electorally pivotal state.

In a carefully nuanced document, Queensland councils have sought to strike a balance between upfront money and long-term structural reforms.

At the very top of their list is a request from Queensland that Section 96 of the Australian Constitution is amended to give legal certainty to the Commonwealth ability to directly fund local governments.

However that aspirational outcome can only be achieved through a successful referendum that is by no means yet a certainty, despite the robust support of Premier Campbell Newman.

The big picturetheme is closely followed by a bid to establish a permanent Roads to Recovery program, with increased funding levels, to accommodate urgent bridge upgrades and commitment to indexing funding to reflect increases in road and bridge construction costs.

On the more practical side, Queensland Councils want an updated system of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery arrangements so that council employees can be employed on federal money rather than work being awarded to more expensive external contractors.

“Queensland councils have consistently shown that bringing in contractors to undertake disaster reconstruction projects fails to deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers that is such work can invariably be done quicker and cheaper using council labour,” LQAQ said.

Australia's most flood prone state also wants a big rethink on how funding arrangements flow in relation to disaster management.

"Funding dedicated to disaster mitigation project remains low compared with the billions of dollars spent on relief and reconstruction payments after disasters struck,” the submission said

”It is time to ask if handing out $1000 relief payments to people after the disaster has passed is the right approach by the federal government when up-front investment in infrastructure that offers better protection from floods fires, heat waves and cyclones might mean fewer victims,” LGAQ said.

The Queensland Council's requests come as the federal government doubles down to try and ensure that it does not Face a total wipe out in Queensland at the next federal election.

This plan sets out a necessary and achievable policy platform for political parties to adopt in the run-up to the 14 September federal election, president Margaret de Wit said.

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