Don’t leave local communities behind

Sustained investment in communities will deliver long-term benefits that will outlast once-off cash payments and temporary fuel excise cuts, writes Linda Scott.

Linda Scott
Linda Scott

Last week’s federal budget included a strong focus on providing immediate – albeit temporary – cost-of-living relief.

For many Australians struggling with rising fuel and grocery prices, as well as a shortage of affordable accommodation, this extra help will be appreciated.

However, sustained investment in our communities will deliver long-term benefits that will outlast once-off cash payments and temporary fuel excise cuts.

From inner city Melbourne to outback WA, local governments reach into every corner of our country and support the lives of every Australian.

We are the ideal conduit for federal funding because the money we receive is spent locally on local priorities.

In the lead up to this year’s Federal Election Australia’s 537 councils are asking all parties to commit to partnerships that will support safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.

Increasing Financial Assistance Grants – the untied federal funding provided to all Australian councils to support local needs – would enable us to create thousands of new jobs.

Funding us to invest in innovative housing solutions would help address our country’s affordable housing crisis and support our regions to attract and retain skilled workers.

Working with us to cut local emissions, reduce the rubbish we send to landfill and turn our rubbish into new products would help our environment and drive economic development.

With better partnerships we could deliver safer roads and address local congestion, unlocking the productivity of our national freight network.

With new programs, we could build more libraries, playgrounds and recreation centres that will provide cost of living relief to families, improve our health and wellbeing, and alleviate pressure on Australia’s healthcare system.

And with ongoing mitigation funding, we could help protect our communities from the increasingly severe floods, fires and other natural disasters we are experiencing.

The devastating floods in Queensland and NSW are a stark reminder that Australia is failing to properly prepare for natural disasters, and we need a different approach.

A new $200 million per year federal disaster mitigation fund, as recommended by the Productivity Commission in 2014, would support councils to roll out dozens of mitigation projects across Australia, protecting homes, businesses and lives.

This is sadly missing in this year’s Budget.

These are tough times, and many Australians need help right now, but we also need to look towards the future.

Increased support to local governments would ensure that much-needed federal funding flows into every corner of our nation, and ensure no community is left behind.

*Linda Scott is the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)

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