Issue 21 March 2013
Following the recent MAV elections I am pleased to be writing to you again with my monthly President’s Update. We had a great first meeting of the new MAV Board earlier this month and I congratulate our new Deputy Presidents Mary Lalios (metro) and David Clark (rural) on their appointments. I also extend my warm wishes to the newly elected VLGA Board and the returning VLGA President, Samantha Dunn.
We’ve had some great feedback on our new magazine CiVic, which launched in December. The second edition of CiVic has just been loaded to the free iPad app, e-magazine and hard copies are in the post to CEOs, councillors and senior managers. I hope you enjoy reading about the diverse and innovative work of Victorian councils.
The MAV recently met with Minister Powell to update her on the national local government position in relation to Constitutional recognition and to seek her support in advocating for a review of the Victorian Government position. The State continues to oppose recognition on the basis that the Pape and Williams cases do not prohibit funding of key Commonwealth programs to councils, and the potential that re-defining the financial relationship between the three levels of government will result in a worsening of intergovernmental relations.
I have formally written to the new premier seeking a review of the Government’s position, following the release of the Joint Select Committee recommendation that a referendum should proceed at this year’s federal election in September. As noted in (former) Minister Crean’s recent media release, the support of state governments is critical if a referendum is to succeed. The Australian Government’s formal response to the parliamentary recommendation is imminent.
The ALGA has also called for all political parties to support the Referendums (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2013 introduced to federal parliament last week. The changes propose to remove the existing constraints on public funding of referendums and could pave the way for a public education campaign, as well as public funding to support well-developed Yes and No campaigns.
Defined Benefits Taskforce update
In February the Defined Benefit Superannuation Taskforce met to discuss targeted work to be undertaken in 2013 to implement recommendations from the taskforce report provided to the MAV in December. This is a significant issue facing our sector and if you haven’t yet read the report, I recommend it to you. Many of the superannuation matters raised by councils at strategic planning sessions around the state are similar to those investigated by the taskforce and work is ongoing to implement priority reform areas aimed at easing the financial effects of shortfalls on councils, reducing future liabilities and improving information on fund performance.
In April we will host a meeting for councillors and CEOs to take you through the taskforce report, and to update you on our work plan and progress implementing the recommendations. We will also be calling for expressions of interest for additional taskforce participants following the loss of several elected representatives from the taskforce after last year’s council elections. Further details will be provided shortly on the briefing date and EOI process.
State Government update
It’s been a busy and surprising month for the Victorian Government with a new premier and a cabinet reshuffle. We’ve also seen the new residential zones released, work progressing to introduce the State’s new fire services property levy, and Stage 2 of the Tomorrow’s Library review commencing to examine funding and implementation of the proposed Victorian Library future vision that was released in late 2012.
We are currently putting together a ‘log of claims’ to provide input to Minister Powell’s review of the Victorian State – Local Government Agreement (VSLGA). This important document guides state – local government relations and gives effect to the national intergovernmental agreement on cost shifting in Victoria. It is critical that we receive your feedback to ensure local government views are reflected in the revised agreement. A members’ brief has been circulated and input into our ‘log of claims’ can be sent direct to Rob Spence by Thursday 28 March.
We also submitted our response this month to the ministerial guidelines on differential rates, where we raised serious concerns about the non-discretionary nature of the guidelines being at odds with the powers conferred on the Minister through legislation. We have also urged the Government to focus its guidelines on practical advice about pricing policy, including best practice rating strategies in line with recent recommendations from the Auditor General.
Our recent meeting with Minister Lovell included: a briefing on our Patchwork pilot, our State Budget submission, plus discussion on the maternal and child health review and consultation, and the National Partnership renegotiations on kindergarten reforms. The Minister also acknowledged and conveyed her sincere thanks for councils’ significant work to achieve the 92 per cent take up of funding to introduce 15 hours of kindergarten this year.
Other MAV news
In a roundup of other MAV news for March, we’ve been busy travelling across the state to gather member input at our strategic planning sessions. To date we’ve had a great turnout at sessions in Hopetoun, Wangaratta, Traralgon, Bendigo, Warrnambool and Geelong. There are two remaining sessions at the MAV on 4 April (2pm – 4pm and 6pm – 8pm). Please come along to share your views on the strategic priorities we should progress on behalf of local government during the next financial year. The draft strategic plan will be circulated to councils in April for feedback and then it will be put to State Council on 16 May.
I was excited to announced our new Patchwork pilot last week. In partnership with UK technology-led public service change experts FutureGov, the project aims to deliver more joined up maternal and child health, and youth services where agencies work with clients in common. You will be hearing more about this project over the coming months and we will announce the participating councils shortly.
I was also pleased to attend the launch of the Bully Free Australia Foundation, an organisation created by our councillor colleague from Moreland, Oscar Yildiz. Launched by the Prime Minister at Essendon Fields on 16 March, the Foundation aims to ensure children and adolescents live lives free of bullying, and offers support to bullying victims and their families.
Finally, I encourage you come along to our Outdoor and Works Field Day on 3 May. A new initiative by MAV Procurement, this event offers an opportunity for councillors and staff to look for new ideas and initiatives to improve processes and efficiency for all your works, engineering, parks, building, asset and infrastructure services.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0437 984 793 or firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any matters you’d like to discuss with me.