Our weekly roundup of policy news in Australia.
Monday 27 March 2023
ALGA President's Update
A sincere thank you to everyone who has submitted motions for our 2023 National General Assembly in June. We’ve had a tremendous response for both motions and registrations for this year’s Conference, which is shaping up to be the biggest on record - so a reminder to get your early bird registrations in soon. With the Treasurer due to deliver the 2023-24 Federal Budget on 9 May, ALGA is continuing to advocate for more funding for your councils and communities. [continue reading]
Councils are calling for funding to increase freight productivity on local roads
In the lead up to this year’s Budget, ALGA is calling for $300 million per year for councils to improve freight productivity and infrastructure on Australia’s local roads. Local governments manage around 77 percent of Australia’s roads by length and play an important role in authorising heavy vehicle access on local roads.
Extra funding needed to support and protect disaster-declared regions
ALGA has partnered with the Australian Airports Association (AAA) to urge the Federal Government to provide $250 million per year over four years for a new Regional Infrastructure Recovery Program to protect regional infrastructure against future disasters. Unprecedented natural disasters in 2022 and 2023 have devastated regional communities and infrastructure, with the National Emergency Management Agency confirming there were 46 disasters declared in 2022, with 524 disaster support declarations over 316 local government areas in Australia.
Funding now available to boost regional telecommunications
Applications are now open for the latest round of Regional Connectivity and Mobile Black Spot grants. Under the Federal Government’s $1.1 billion Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia, councils can apply for round 7 of the Mobile Black Spots and round 3 of Regional Connectivity programs.
Local government urged to support asbestos safety campaign in the home and workplace
Australian councils are invited to support a national education campaign around the dangers of asbestos in the home and workplace. As part of the National Asbestos Awareness Campaign from 12 March – 10 April 2023, local government is urged to access and share a stakeholder pack containing a range of useful materials you may wish to use, including written assets, print assets and social assets.
Federal Government review of disability and public transport standards
Councils are invited to make a submission to the Federal Government’s Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport which is now open. The review – announced in December 2022 – is conducted every five years. A discussion paper was also released as part of the consultation process.
PM reveals final wording of constitutional amendment and question on Indigenous recognition
The Indigenous Voice Referendum question and amendment has been announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with legislation to be introduced to parliament this week. Australians will be asked in a referendum later this year if they approve a proposed law to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a voice to parliament. The Voice would act as an advisory body able to make representations to parliament and executive government. The legislation will be sent to a parliamentary committee for inquiry, with specific details of the Voice to be decided after a successful referendum result.
WA Government appoints new advisory group on homelessness
As part of Western Australia's homelessness reforms, a number of homeless working groups have been consolidated into a single Advisory Group to the Minister for Homelessness - focusing on Housing First approaches to reduce rough sleeping. The group consists of people from a range of areas including front line support services, local government and Community Housing Organisations, plus people with lived experience and will support and guide implementation of All Paths Lead to a Home: Western Australia's 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness.
Government of Western Australia
Victorian Government forced to put police informer laws on ice
The Victorian Government has been forced to shelve its controversial police informer laws after receiving widespread criticism from the opposition, Greens, crossbenchers and the legal sector. The draft law has been pulled by the government after the Greens decided not to support it in its current form, another blow to the government’s faltering Human Source Management Bill. The legislation, created in response to a royal commission into the Lawyer X scandal, would empower Victorian Police to register lawyers, journalists, priests, and children as informants. Opponents and legal groups argue that pursuing lawyers as informants undermines a fundamental principle of the legal system.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Briefings and Reports
Report delves into dysfunctional freedom of information system
A new report by the Australia Institute offers a critique into the current freedom of information (FOI) system, labelling it “dysfunctional and under-resourced”. Headline figures include three-in-ten FOI requests being undecided within the statutory timeframe, with many over three months late. 9,202 requests were in the FOI backlog in 2022, compared to 3,313 in 2017. The report argues governments prioritising protecting themselves from unflattering information is behind this trend, and says that the system could be tightened by closing loopholes, implementing minimum staffing levels for FOI teams, and opening more avenues for redress.
The Australia Institute
Solutions to Queensland’s housing crisis
A newly-released report by the UNSW Sydney sets out to tackle Queensland’s housing and rental crisis, providing recommendations adaptable and applicable Australia-wide. Designed as a comprehensive roadmap, its key policy recommendations include: Expanding housing funds; phasing in meaningful inclusionary zoning; reforming rent assistance and short-term rental regulation; facilitating build-to-rent development; reforming private landlord tax concessions; replacing stamp duty with broad-based land tax; and re-establishing a housing entity within state and federal governments.
The challenges essential workers are facing
Research published by the University of Sydney has found that there are now no LGAs across Sydney or Melbourne with a median house price affordable to an early career essential worker. The research finds that the relative number of essential workers living within 15kms of Sydney and Melbourne CBDs is declining, with affordability issues once contained to these capitals extending to the outer suburbs and regional areas. Areas with affordable median prices in 2016, such as the Central Coast, the Illawarra, Newcastle and much of the South and North coasts are now unaffordable.
University of Sydney
Australian homelessness worsening
New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that more than 6,000 additional Australians were now struggling with homelessness in 2021 compared to 2016. The post-pandemic picture presented by the new data is grim, with a 5% increase over four years representing some 122,494 Australians experiencing homelessness. While 6% of this group were sleeping rough on census night, the vast majority were experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’, such as sheltering in refuges, boarding houses, overcrowded dwellings, or with friends and family temporarily. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 20% of all people who reported being homeless on census night.
Tenants and landlords facing broken rental system
Analysis released on 23 March by LongView and PEXA has found rental tenants are facing some of the worst conditions in the developed world. In Melbourne, it is now five times as difficult to find a rental property than it was in the early 2000s, with rental vacancy rates across Australia in free-fall over the past two years and reaching record lows. Half of all rentals were built between 1950 and 1999, according to the figures, while 25% have plumbing issues and mould. Security for renters is also poor, with more than 36% of people moving three or more times in the past five years.
The Sydney Morning Herald
One in eight Australians living in poverty
60% of JobSeeker recipients are living $269 per week below the poverty line on average, while 12.5% of all Australians are living in poverty overall, according to new figures published by ACOSS and the University of NSW. In addition, 72% of people on the Parenting Payment were living in poverty in 2019-20, alongside 17% of children. The report highlighted the “highly gendered” nature of poverty, with households with women as main income earners experiencing almost twice the level of poverty as the male equivalent. ACOSS has labelled the findings endemic of the failure of the national support payment system.
ACOSS / The Australian
Latest LGIU Australia content
At its heart, local planning is about change management, and in the face of climate change and other unseen stresses, questions are being asked around how cities need to change. This briefing explores target-based planning and the opportunities and challenges it can bring to placemaking and public administration.
A holistic view of wellbeing helps policymakers understand the many dimensions of the lived experience – and what responses can bring us closer to equal opportunity, social cohesion, and harmony with the natural environment.
Not an LGIU member? Get in touch about a free trial for your council
LGIU and ALGA
LGIU Australia and ALGA are working to together to support and inform local governments across Australia through this joint bulletin and ongoing collaborations.
Getting the most out of your LGIU membership
LGIU (Local Government Information Unit) Australia is a joint venture between not-for-profit local government think tank LGIU and SGS Economics and Planning. LGIU Australia annual membership includes unlimited access to LGiU content for every council employee. Members receive:
- Daily news bulletin summarising what news sources are saying about local government across Australia.
- Weekly roundup emails containing briefings, reports and other content written by sector experts in Australia supplemented by international insights on relevant local government issues from our global network of associates.
- Interesting and insightful guest blog posts and podcasts from around the world.
- Invitations to seminars and workshops.
- Unlimited access to global content on the LGiU website.
Secure annual membership for your council and join 30,000+ members worldwide.