Election Special

There are potentially many, many issues to determine how people will vote in NSW elections on Saturday. For some voters, one issue will be enough and for others it will be a more comprehensive examination of policies. For some, of course, it will be brand loyalty.

depa is not affiliated with any political party and, as you’ve seen over the years, we are equally happy to be critical of the role of Government whether that be Coalition or Labor.

As a registered industrial organisation under the Industrial Relations Act (that’s how both unions and employer organisations are registered) we obviously have more of an interest in those things that affect our members.

We didn’t like it when the Carr Labor Government started stripping away workers’ compensation entitlements and we didn’t like it either when the O’Farrell Coalition Government made things even worse.

For the election we have asked four questions of both the Government and the Opposition. In asking the questions we provided a guarantee that the responses would be published unedited.

We have done this before and find that it’s usually easier to get a policy response from an Opposition and harder to get one from the Government - especially if the questions we’re asking are hard to answer, make them uncomfortable or press them for explicit assurances they would rather be quiet about.

Here are our four questions below. Labor also provided a PDF of their comprehensive local government policies. This is a link if you would like to explore it.

Here are two links to articles that, by coincidence, were published today in the Sydney Morning Herald.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-state-election-2015/first-the-carrot-then-the-stick-state-policy-on-council-amalgamations-examined-20150324-13z11t.html

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-state-election-2015-reducing-nsws-152-councils-to-38-would-cost-445-million-modelling-shows-20150324-1m6l6s.html

1. The NSW Government’s attitude to local government

Preface

The Department of Local Government keeps getting smaller, suffering a variety of name changes and a reduction in its seniority in the Government/Cabinet and its role in the industry.

Question 1

Will the Government take steps to ensure local government as a portfolio receives a higher profile in the Government?

Coalition Government response

Under the Baird Government, the local government sector is finally receiving the attention it deserves.

For example, we have provided more than $1.5 billion in grants to help country and city councils upgrade and maintain their roads, bridges and culverts. This is the highest level of funding for local and regional roads in the state’s history, dwarfing Labor allocations in its last four financial years in government (i.e. 2007-08 to 2010-11) by more than 40 per cent.

Our Fit for the Future package is the most significant investment the State has ever made in the local government sector, and ensures that local government firmly remains a key priority for a re-elected Baird Government.

ALP response

Yes. We will form a Premier’s Council for Local Government to bring together all relevant stakeholders and develop new partnerships between the NSW Government and the local government sector.

2. Amalgamation of councils - to compulsorily amalgamate or not to compulsorily amalgamate, that is the question

Preface

Everyone is aware of the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel and what has been a traditional and historic view of both sides of politics that amalgamations should be voluntary. The Independent Review Panel, amongst other things, proposes compulsory amalgamations and the Fit for the Future strategy appears to encourage that if Councils do not meet certain criteria, which have been challenged by both councils and academics.

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