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What is the Role of Local Government in Australia?

Local Government in Australia was slow to develop, but the large cities in Australia all had local government bodies by the late 1800’s.

Fundamentally, local government bodies in Australia are all creatures of State/Territory legislation. This legislation prescribes the activities which the State/Territory Government requires the local government to perform.

Generally, local governments perform regulatory tasks that would be difficult for State governments to perform because of their localized nature. These tasks are wide-ranging and relate to building inspection, planning and development approval, dog and cat management, parking, as well as food and health inspection. Local governments assume responsibility for the general health and well being of the local community; this leads them to focus on drainage, immunisation, public toilets, water coolers, waste disposal and cleaning and maintenance of local streets.

Local government will also provide public gardens, parks and sports grounds and in rural regions of Queensland will be responsible for pest management and control, as indeed they do in urban regions as well as, weed control, droving permits, stock control and management.

Local government funding comes from the Federal Government via the various State Governments and also from rates levied on ratepayers, who are the people who own property in the Council administration region.

So, what is all this about?

Well, in Moreton Bay, very shortly Local Government elections will be held. A large number of candidates are making themselves available for election, which is the sign of a healthy democracy.

All of the candidates will propose that they alone can deliver the kind of local government that ratepayers want. We all know that there there are some issues involving the CCC and the previous Moreton Bay Council, but because of the nature of the beast, no comment shall be made in this article.

It is essential that those citizens entitled to vote in Council elections understand who is standing for office, what they propose to do and how they propose to do it.

Candidates are driven by one imperative – to get enough votes to get elected. Therefore they will cast about looking for pressure points in the community and then promise to fix the problem. Many of them have no idea what they are really trying to fix, but they say they will fix it because they want your vote.

Now, there is nothing new in this. It has been happening since elections for local office were first conducted in Great Britain and Europe in the 15 th. and 16 th. centuries.

Nor is it illegal for candidates to say these things. But is very important that you, if you are going to vote for them, ask them what they are going to do and how they will do it?

For example, local land management meaning clearing of land, control of weeds and forest floor growth is clearly a matter of priority in this Shire. The green driven agendas of land management have been exposed as inadequate and dangerous.

How is this newly elected council going to address this problem?

The sheer damage being done to the Bribie Island foreshore by the 4x4 WD invasion of the ocean coast of Bribie Island is almost incalculable…some serious thinking and regulation need to focus on that issue – and, although it is a State Government matter, loud, constant and sensible political questions raised by Moreton Bay Shire Council will draw attention to what is a major issue.

I ask, where are the green and nature preserving activists who could be drawing attention to baby turtle destruction and foreshore erosion on the Bribie Island ocean coast? Where are they?

And what about building approvals on known flood plains? Flood plains are called that because that is what they are….flood plains; and being a country boy I can tell you all that flood water has a long, long memory and it will always return to where it has been. Always!

The Moreton Bay region is one of the fastest-growing regions in Australia. So, we can expect a surge in small industries, housing development, amenity development, park and gardens and all of the demands made upon the local infrastructure that fast-growing communities expect.

Managing this growth is not for amateur Councillors. Moreton Bay Shire Council has long term professional staff with a good grasp on these issues and are well qualified to deal with them – newly elected Councillors will need to be aware of these pressures and, as candidates, they should be required to explain their understanding of what their responsibilities will be…

I am not levelling pejorative remarks at candidates, either new ones or existing Councillors seeking re-election, I am drawing attention to the fact that the days of the long lunches with mates, a few cigars here or there, a few favours here or there, are well and truly OVER!

The idea that Local Governments can meddle with the history of European settlement of this country is also a matter of some conjecture. Australia Day is as it is and should remain so. This day should not be subject to political activism regarding the ceremonies of conferring citizenship on people who want to become Australian citizens.

The value to Australian society through our immigration programmes is enormous. The contributions, of immigrants, socially and culturally, to our communities is immeasurable. An example is the Sikh community’s reaction to the recent bush fire tragedies, members of the Sikh Community gave their time and assets to assist those affected by the fires in practical and sensible ways, delivering food and water over long distances.

It is a fact in a democracy that communities get the governments they deserve. This happens because of apathy in the community towards the responsibility of exercising your right to vote in a responsible fashion.

Thousand of Australians died on foreign soil to secure our freedoms and your right to vote for the men and women who wish to lead our communities.

I urge you all to think carefully about who gets your vote and why they get it!

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