ALGA National General Assembly
Last week, myself, Councillor Nicole McKay and Council’s Chief Executive Officer John McLinden attended the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) National General Assembly in Canberra.
It was certainly an interesting time politically to be in Canberra, with the changing of National Party leadership (and therefore the Deputy Prime Minister) from Michael McCormack to Barnaby Joyce.
The National General Assembly provides a unique opportunity for Local Governments across Australia (all 537 of them) to come together to discuss a range of issues and hear from political leaders, experts, commentators, and Local Government colleagues.
Importantly, the National General Assembly is a chance to engage with and advocate directly to the Federal Government, and discuss issues relevant to our region and Council.
Through the Murray River Group of Councils (MRGC), we met with three ministers (current at that time, before any changes following the Assembly), including the Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government Mark Coulton, about regional connectivity and blackspots, and health services in regional areas.
As well as recognising the importance of Local Government in identifying connectivity problems and helping (where it can) to resolve these issues, Minister Coulton advised that round six of the Blackspots Program was funded.
He also talked favourably about the regional connectivity program – including the development of a private broadband network along parts of the Murray Valley, which includes Swan Hill to Tooleybuc and both sides of the river.
The meeting also discussed health services in regional areas, such as possible ways to encourage young doctors into regional areas and the future of health delivery to regional Australia, and the need for significant innovation around this.
The MRGC also met with Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt – and I was honoured to be Acting Chair and lead the MRGC delegation in this meeting.
Minister Pitt spoke about the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects and noted that they are progressing.
We advised Minister Pitt that the MRGC appreciated his support in pursuing no more buybacks to achieve the 450-gigalitre saving under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The MRGC also pressed the Minister that we would like to see this locked into legislation – which was already in progress.
Later that day, proposed amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan legislation by the National Party, including stopping water buybacks went to the Senate. However, the bill was defeated with the backing of Liberal Party members.
The MRGC also met with Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, regarding renewable energy. The Minister acknowledged the barriers preventing significant investment in renewable energy within Victoria – that is, issues of transmission and suitable dispatch to power sources.
Individually, Swan Hill Rural City Council met with the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Member for Mallee Anne Webster for arranging this meeting.
During the meeting, we provided multiple examples of the need in our area for labour – from seasonal workers through to permanent farm managers and manufacturing skills.
In what was a positive result, the Minister indicated he was open to joining our Council and neighbours to a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA), a regional visa that enables a certain number of migrants to work in a region for a period of time, and has a pathway to residency. A DAMA is currently being applied for in the Goulburn Valley, taking in the City of Greater Shepparton, Moira and Campaspe shire councils.
Council seeking feedback
Council is currently seeking feedback for proposed Robinvale and Swan Hill Aerodrome user fees, charges and conditions, which includes a curfew on circuit training; Domestic Animal Management Plan survey; and draft Mobile Food Trading Code of Practice, which includes surveys for food businesses and the dining community.
To find out more about all three of these topics and to have your say click here.