BILL: Rate Oversight

Today Mark outlined the Greens opposition to the Government's Bill to introduce rate capping, which risked causing great harm to local communities without doing anything to improve accountability and transparency for how councils manage their budgets.

Local Government (Rate Oversight) Amendment Bill 2019

This bill has been languishing on the Notice Paper for 12 months and now it is time to lance the boil. The Greens are pleased that today the Government's rate capping legislation will be defeated. The commitment that we made before the last state election was that we would work constructively with local government and with other political parties to legislate reforms to improve the effectiveness and accountability of local councils. Our view remains that attention should now focus on improving accountability for rate spending and a host of other reforms that the local government sector has been calling for since before the last election.

Whilst the Government was off sulking, the Greens and other parties were hard at work developing an alternative model, which passed this chamber many months ago and now sits languishing on the lower house Notice Paper because the Government refuses to support it. Rate capping was bad public policy. It risked causing great harm to local communities without doing anything to improve accountability and transparency for how councils manage their budgets.

The campaign to oppose rate capping was very broad, with support from public sector and other unions as well as community organisations. For example, the Australian Services Union ran a 'Protect our local services' campaign that reminded people how much we value the local services that make our communities vibrant, inclusive and safe. Whether it is taking your kids to the local library or playground, swimming laps at your local pool, playing at your local sporting club, taking the dog to the local dog park or enjoying local food festivals and street parties, there is so much more that local councils do for the community that goes beyond the cliché of roads, rates and rubbish.

The state Liberal Government's plan for rate capping would have been an arbitrary one-size-fits-all limit on council rates that restricts the ability of councils to provide essential community services that their residents and ratepayers want. Rate capping would have resulted in a reduction in services, reduced investment in infrastructure and backlogs in crucial maintenance. It would mean that the services that contribute to building strong and vibrant communities were either reduced or discontinued entirely. Rate capping also means communities pay more for the things that they love.

The Greens unashamedly support local services. We are committed to supporting local councils to provide the best services they can for their communities. That is why we have consistently opposed rate capping. Our view has always been to support local councils being able to raise the amount of revenue they deem sufficient in exactly the same way that state governments and the federal government do. In the aftermath of the last state election, much was said about mandates. The Greens' mandate includes opposing rate capping. We took it to the election and now we are following through. The Greens will be opposing this bill.