Councils important Government partners to deliver for Indi communities
Posted March 02, 2016
CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (21:10): Tonight I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge, thank and honour members of local government—the staff, the councillors and the communities that provide the foundation of democracy in my electorate of Indi: the Alpine Shire, with its main towns of Mt Beauty, Bright and Myrtleford; Benalla; Indigo, with its main towns of Yackandandah, Chiltern, Rutherglen and Beechworth, and not to forget the beautiful Barnawartha; Mansfield; Murrindindi, with the main towns of Alexandra, Yea, Marysville, Kinglake; Moira; and the Indi towns of Tungamah, St James and Lake Rowan, and all the towns in between.
Without a doubt local government is the level of government closest to the people. It is the provider of many of the services that give our communities quality of life. I believe it is the level of government that really has its finger on the pulse of our communities, our businesses and our environment.
Tonight I would particularly like to acknowledge the role of local government in being such a strong partner with the Commonwealth government on so many important projects, most notably the National Stronger Regions Fund, the Stronger Communities Program and the Mobile Black Spot Program.
In acknowledging this particularly important role I would like to point out the very difficult situation facing local government in rural and regional areas, with the Commonwealth government's cost-shifting. For example, the indexation freeze on Financial Assistance Grants has had a huge impact. At the same time local governments are asked, indeed expected, to co-invest in Commonwealth programs such as the Mobile Black Spot Program. There is a huge expectation that local governments in rural areas are expected to help cover the costs of telecommunication infrastructure, when this is clearly not the case for local governments in our urban areas.
I would like to put on the record my personal appreciation, and that of a grateful electorate, for all the work of Alpine Shire CEO Dave Barry, Mayor Ron Janas and all the councillors; Benalla Rural City CEO Tony McIlroy and Mayor Justin King; Indigo Shire CEO Gerry Smith and Mayor James Trenery; Mansfield Shire CEO Alex Green—and previously David Roth—and Mayor Paul Sladden; Moira Shire CEO Mark Henderson and Gary Cleveland; Murrindindi Shire CEO Margaret Abbey and Mayor Margaret Rae; Towong Shire CEO Juliana Phelps and Mayor David Wortmann—and previously Mary Fraser; Rural City of Wangaratta CEO Brendan McGrath and commissioners Ailsa, Irene and Rod; and the Wodonga City Council CEO Patience Harrington and Mayor Anna Speedie. I have welcomed the opportunities to get to know the CEOs, councillors and all the staff. I appreciate the enormous contribution they make to their communities, both in paid work and in the volunteer work they do with such generosity and skill.
It has been a great pleasure to welcome many of the CEOs, councillors and staff to this place and I have been proud to advocate on their behalf. Over the two and a half years that I have been a member of parliament we have had some great wins. To mention a few: the National Stronger Regions Fund, with over $17 million has coming to the electorate; the Stronger Communities Program, helping to distribute over $150,000 to local communities and the Mobile Black Spot Program, with 30 new base stations mobile phone towers to be built in Indi in the next two years, which is the third highest of any electorate in the country.
I would also like to acknowledge the role played by local government in Indi in creating and enhancing our cultural environment. Our festivals are some of the best in the country, entertaining locals, supporting businesses and encouraging tourists to enjoy the wonder that is north-east Victoria.
I make a warm invitation to my colleagues in the House to put north-east Victoria on your holiday calendar: Bright's Rod Run in November; Benalla's city rose festival at the end of October; Beechworth Golden Horseshoe Festival at Easter; Alexandras Truck, Ute and Rod Show, on the Queen's Birthday weekend; Mansfield High Country Festival; Corryong's Man from Snowy River Bush Festival, at the end of March; and, a personal favourite on a summer's evening, Wodonga's Friday Night on High.
In closing I call on the Commonwealth to rethink its approach to working with local government, to lift the freeze on indexation of Financial Assistance Grants and to consider reopening the discussion to give formal recognition to local government in the Constitution.