RDA Sunshine Coast urges Constitutional reform for high impact regional development

The RDA Sunshine Coast Chair is traveling to Parliament House in Brisbane today (Tuesday 1 February 2011) to give evidence at the Senate Select Committee hearing on the Reform of the Australian Federation.

The Senate Select Committee was established in June 2010 to report on key priorities for the reform of relations between the three levels of government within the Australian Federation.

RDA Sunshine Coast sent a detailed submission to the inquiry in August 2010 and that she was delighted to be offered the opportunity to further discuss that submission during the formal inquiry hearing in Brisbane.

During the hearing, RDA Sunshine Coast will respond to five key questions underpinning the Select Committee’s inquiry.

“I intend to focus the Senate Committee on the practical benefits of constitutional change for the Sunshine Coast region. Key issues for our region include enabling direct funding of Local Government by the Australian Government and streamlining of Commonwealth, State and Local Government responsibilities to avoid wasting time and money.”

The Chair said that there are around 560 local government bodies in Australia with about 6,600 elected councillors. These councils spend more than $20 billion each year and employ around 178,000 people.

“However, the Australian Constitution does not recognize Local Government.

“RDA Sunshine Coast believes that a simple recognition of the existence and broad role of the Local Government in the Constitution would be of national benefit.”

The Chair will outline RDA Sunshine Coast’s views on financial relations between federal, state and local governments following a High Court decision in 2009 (Pape V Commissioner of Taxation) which questioned the Commonwealth’s power to directly fund Local Government.

“There are benefits in changing the Constitution to include a financial power which enables the Australian Government to directly fund councils,” The Chair said.

“I also intend to focus on the necessity for greater understanding, collaboration and cooperation between the three tiers of Government and the need to streamline roles and responsibilities.”

While the establishment of COAG (Council of Australian Governments), ACLG (Australian Council of Local Government) and the Regional Development Australia network are important mechanisms, the Chair said there was still much to be done to improve cooperation and understanding.

“This was highlighted during the recent floods when head of the recovery taskforce, Major General Mick Slater, commented on the needs of each community being different.

“I am committed to growing the Sunshine Coast region’s capacity for high-impact whole-of-government strategy development and alignment. This inquiry offers enormous potential to help address some of the reform issues necessary to make that happen.”

A full report on the inquiry’s findings will be tabled in the Senate on the last sitting day of May 2011. More information about the Select Committee on the Reform of the Australian Federation can be found at www.aph.gov.au/Senate.

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