News and resources

Issue 27 November 2013

MAV President's Update

Issue 27, November 2013

Referendum refunds

Following the former Rudd Government’s failure to proceed with the referendum on constitutional recognition after it was committed to and legislation had passed federal parliament, we were pleased to hear Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss confirm that local government’s costs will be refunded in full.

A recent State Council resolution endorsed the ongoing efforts by the MAV and ALGA to seek reimbursement from the Commonwealth, and we expect this will be processed in the coming weeks. In the interim, the MAV has issued the first of a two-part refund to councils who contributed a voluntary levy to the Yes campaign. A second payment will occur once funds have been reimbursed by the federal government, ensuring that 100 per cent of contributions are returned to councils.

The ALGA has also written to councils advising of the reimbursement and the Government’s current position on a future referendum. Further details are available at http://www.councilreferendum.com.au/

Reconciliation Action Plan

The MAV was pleased to announce at our annual conference that we will be developing a Reconciliation Action Plan. We hope that participating in this nationally-recognised framework will enrich our journey of developing stronger connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Better relationships between Aboriginal people and the wider community has shown to be vital to achieving reconciliation, and reducing the gap in social and economic indicators for Indigenous Australians.

As a significant employer in the Victorian economy, it’s time now for local government to strengthen participation of Aboriginal people in our local communities. We look forward to playing our role through the development of the Plan to help councils attract, develop and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

Economic Development Parliamentary Inquiry

We provided our response to Minister Powell on the Economic Development Parliamentary Inquiry following Board consideration last Friday. We expressed serious reservations about many of the recommendations arising from what can only be considered an extraordinary report, which would have made far reaching changes to councils. Among these include imposing sanctions on councils for not pursuing economic development objectives and requiring all relevant senior officers to include performance indicators in their contracts.

Councils are already providing significant support to economic development and we believe any strengthening of these activities at the local level requires a partnership approach between local, state and commonwealth governments. This report did not provide this framework and as such, we expressed to the Minister our concerns about the recommendations.

Commission of Audit

The federal Treasurer recently announced a Commission of Audit to assess the role and scope of government to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent efficiently. The Commission’s work will feed into the Government's examination of the division of responsibilities between local, state and federal governments.

The terms of reference give the Commission a broad remit to examine the scope of government and duplication of effort; efficiency and effectiveness of government expenditure; the state of Commonwealth finances; adequacy of existing budget controls; and public sector performance and accountability. It will be of relevance to general Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs), specific payments including the Road Safety Black Spots program and Roads To Recovery, as well as funding for services such as kindergartens and home and community care (HACC).

Tony Shepherd AO will chair the five-person Commission, which will hold public and private hearings over the coming months and receive submissions in order to provide an initial report to the Government by January 2014. The MAV will be working with the ALGA on a sector response, and is likely to prepare a separate submission on Victoria-specific matters such as HACC.

Councillor service awards

I want to congratulate the 66 councillors who recently received our 2013 Councillor Service Awards in recognition of the ongoing contribution they make to local communities through their elected role. Being a councillor is rewarding, and requires dedication and passion by those who want to make a genuine positive contribution to the future of their community. But it can also be demanding, time consuming and sometimes a thankless role.

Nine mayors were awarded the Mayor Emeritus for three or more full terms as mayor. A further forty-eight councillors received awards for 10 years’ service, seven councillors received the 15 years’ Service Award and three councillors (including myself) were recognised for 20 years of service.

Gender equality and preventing violence against women

As many of you know, I’m a proud White Ribbon Ambassador. 25 November is White Ribbon Day, being the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Victorian councils are being recognised nationally as leaders in this space, and our partnership program supported by the Office of Women’s Policy and VicHealth is helping to build councils’ capacity to work on gender equity initiatives. There are some great case studies on our website, including inspiring examples of how councils have participated in White Ribbon campaigns.

One of our latest initiatives is a gender and emergency management strategy in response to the growing evidence that the incidence of family violence increases post-disaster. We have also developed a simple fact sheet to help councils improve their understanding of gender differences and incorporate gender considerations into their emergency management policy, planning, decision-making and service delivery.

This year, the MAV is hosting a White Ribbon afternoon tea for our staff and I encourage you to get involved in two ways:

  • Live the Oath: swear now “never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women” and lead by example. Be a role model and intervene when safety is needed – review this great advice on ways you can help
  • Get social: encourage your council to host an event, encourage your family and friends to swear the oath, and use your networks to get more people involved.

Best wishes
BILL