Issue 23 May 2013
There has been much happening as the campaign progresses towards a September referendum on financial recognition of local government in our national Constitution. The draft wording has been out for consultation and was this week introduced to federal parliament in the Constitutional Alteration (Local Government) Bill 2013.
The national ‘Yes’ campaign team is being finalised by ALGA, including the appointment of a National Campaign Director and support agencies. Today I have written to all Victorian Federal MPs and Senators urging their support for the legislation. I’ve also emailed all mayors this week requesting that councils make direct representations to your local Federal MP/s and Senators ahead of the legislation being debated in Parliament next week. This Bill is the final formal step in the path to a referendum, and support from all parties is particularly important given the disappointing and vocal opposition expressed by the Victorian Government in recent weeks.
As the State Coordinator of the national campaign, the MAV has also circulated speaking notes, template materials and Q and As to all councils, and members are continuing to advise us of your decisions to participate and whether a voluntary financial contribution will be made. We will be starting an electronic campaign update to keep you informed of all news and activities as the campaign progresses.
Spotlight on rating
Council disagreement with the Ministerial Guidelines on differential rates is continuing, with three municipalities now proposing differential rates which the Minister intends to prohibit. Monash and Moreland councils have proposed a gaming venue differential, while Moonee Valley intends to have a differential rate for licensed venues. The MAV continues to maintain that the Ministerial Guidelines overstep the powers conferred on the Minister through legislation.
The MAV is again collating draft council budget and rates data to be released in late June in an accessible format for media and communities. This year we have added a new section to the rates survey asking for data on how changes to differential rates may affect your council’s rating practices to establish the sector-wide effects. We have also added a section to measure the revenue collected by the fire services levy. This will be useful in helping communities to understand that the new fire services property levy will not be retained by councils but passed on in full to the State Revenue Office to fund Victoria’s fire services.
Councils are encouraged to return their rates survey as soon as possible after draft council budget data becomes publicly available.
MAV Wrap Up
I was pleased to present at the recent White Ribbon international conference in Sydney, where I launched our new handbook showcasing Victorian councils’ leading work to promote gender equity and innovative programs to help prevent violence against women in our community. The MAV’s commitment to gender equity was raised at the recent State Council meeting and I believe we have a strong track record in this space. Our leadership statement was launched last year; the Board considers gender equity when proposing nominations for Ministerial appointments and committees; and we have an excellent gender balance on our Board, staff and in awarding recipients of our Cranlana and Fellowship programs to mention just a few. I was proud to be speak at the ALGWA dinner last week, and the MAV will continue to strive for and show leadership on gender equity issues wherever possible.
Last week we met with Minister Davis to discuss the impacts of the Home and Community Care program being transferred to the Commonwealth as part of the Victorian Government signing up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Minister Davis has agreed to address an MAV forum of councils on the way forward, and advised of the State’s intention to establish a formal advisory process with the MAV and other key peak bodies and providers to articulate the strengths of the Victorian system and develop a position/options we can put to the Commonwealth to maintain the benefits of our effective service platform.
This month I also attended our library forum with all councils and regional libraries, where a range of views were raised about the ‘Victorian Library’ concept proposed as part of the Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) review into public libraries. While generally supportive of key elements, we have now advised the Government of significant sector concerns about committing to a model whose benefits are not yet demonstrated, and the need for additional State investment in statewide initiatives proposed. Councils also expressed concerns that the system reform should not obscure core funding issues facing public libraries.
We will have our regular catch up with Minister Powell in the next few weeks where the MAV will discuss member concerns about the library review, differential rates and the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement, among other matters.
Earlier this month the MAV also held a meeting of our Metropolitan Strategy Reference Group at the request of the Minister for Planning to assist in understanding councils’ views on the proposed Metropolitan Planning Authority. We’ve now provided feedback to the Minister on the aims, functions and governance of the proposed authority. Councils acknowledged the lack of a 'whole of government and agency' support; the coordination and delivery of city infrastructure and services; and absence of a cohesive mechanism that plans for metropolitan Melbourne. Members also seek assurance that the authority would not become involved in ‘local’ issues or reduce the role of councils as decision-makers.
Finally, I hope to see many of you attending our Councillor Development Weekend from 26-28 July in Creswick. The theme "See the Forest through the Trees" invites us to remember the basics but not forget the bigger picture. There is a great program being offered, with a focus on the big challenges ahead and how to get on top of the game.
Garage Sale Trail
The MAV Board recently endorsed a partnership with the Garage Sale Trail, a not-for-profit working with councils to organise communities around Australia to hold garage sales on the same day, 26 October. The program aims to promote sustainability, community and commerce. Participating councils have reported a range of benefits including promoting reuse within their community; reducing waste going to landfill; creating community connections; and stimulating local economies.
Participating councils include Moreland, Hume, Port Phillip, Bayside, Kingston, Bendigo, Whittlesea, Yarra Ranges and Monash, with other municipalities in the process of signing up. For a fee, participants are provided with branding and communication tools, and human resources and digital support. I encourage you to take a look at this worthwhile initiative, and to speak with council colleagues from the participating municipalities.