MOUNT Gambier City Council has called for a Local Government Association (LGA) representative to be included on the National Cabinet to maintain a strong line of communication between the three forms of government.
It follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that a new National Federation Reform Council (NFRC) will replace Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings, with National Cabinet to remain at the centre of the NFRC.
However, there will be no LGA representative on the National Cabinet, which will continue to meet regularly and be briefed directly by experts to inform decision making.
It led to a motion put forward by Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin at Tuesday night’s full council meeting instructing council chief executive Andrew Meddle to write to the Prime Minister, State Premier and local government bodies.
“The decision to replace COAG with National Cabinet which does not include local government representation – is disappointing for our sector and will be detrimental to the communities we serve,” Ms Martin said in the report.
“It is important local government has a seat at the table when important decisions are made.”
Praising the work of the National Cabinet during COVID-19, Ms Martin said the strong lines of communication with local government had been beneficial when making decisions for the community.
“I think National Cabinet has operated very effectively throughout COVID-19 and I can understand why the Prime Minister wishes to keep that forum in place,” she said.
“What I have also noticed is the level of communication the LGA has enjoyed with our State Government and that communication has enabled us to work together for our communities.
“I’m keen to see the LGA still being represented in some form to ensure that all three levels of government continue to work together.”
Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president David O’Loughlin said failure to include a representative was a lost opportunity to drive jobs growth and economic reform at a local level.
“In this new environment, with the coronavirus pandemic largely suppressed and where the emphasis is now shifting to economic recovery, it has never been more vital for the three tiers of government to be aligned to support and facilitate jobs growth and to get our economy back on track,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
“Local government has long had a strong role in economic development and investment attraction.”
The full NFRC will meet annually and will include representatives from ALGA and the Council on Federal Financial Relations – made up of federal and state treasurers.
“To relegate 537 councils and 6500 elected members to one invitation a year to speak in a room that will be crowded with treasurers and hangers-on does not nearly do justice to the work that local government does and can do in the nation’s interest,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
Ms Martin agreed, saying one meeting a year was probably not often enough.
“My point really is that it worked so well during COVID-19 and I think the Premier has really enjoyed that level communication as well,” she said.
“In addition, LGA has had a representative on COAG for almost 30 years, so to lose that representation would be disappointing.”
Mr O’Loughlin said ALGA was seeking clarification from Mr Morrison about its role in the reform councils sitting beneath National Cabinet.
“From our first council in Adelaide in 1840 to the present day, there is not a council in the land that does not have an eye to the future and a strategy to get there,” he said.
“To not embrace this goodwill and planning within National Cabinet is to the detriment of the nation.”