People to get back their voice in local government: Minister

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – The Country Liberals Government is fulfilling an election commitment by introducing a Bill at the next sittings to make changes to the Local Government Act to give people back their voice in local government.

 

The Bill will mark the beginning of a new era of local government and the first stage in the process to give a voice back to those who lost theirs under Labor’s super-shire model. Amendments to the Act will introduce Regional Councils, and as Minister I will require Regional Councils to establish Local Authorities, made up of local people.

 

Local Authorities will be a direct link between the Regional Council and communities, ensuring local government is far more responsive to the needs of its residents.

 

A set of detailed Ministerial Guidelines outlining the roles and functions of Local Authorities will be released shortly and we will seek comment from key stakeholders before implementation.

 

These changes are the result of two careful processes:-

• The 25-member Regional Governance Working Group (RGWG), established by former Minister for Local Government and now Chief Minister Giles; and

• Feedback received throughout the extensive consultations.

 

The message from the RGWG was very clear, they do not want to be back in three or four years time discussing this exact same issue. It is paramount we get these reforms right.

 

A report detailing the results of this government’s comprehensive consultation process is being released today.  The overwhelming message from those consultations is that we bring local voices and local expertise back into local government.

 

But this important legislative change is not the end.

 

Stage two of the reforms will involve a full review into sustainability and viability of regional local government in the Northern Territory.  Any further changes such as boundaries will be a result of this process.

 

We understand that there is a yearning in the Bush for immediate change.  However we owe it to those people who receive services and those whose money supports these services, to develop a model that will work well now and into the future.

 

It is also important that we do not create endless talk and no action, so I have instructed my department to do a comprehensive review of the finances and everything that affects the efficient operation of local government.

 

I have also asked to have this review back to me before the end of the year so that I may present stage two of the reforms to Cabinet by January 2014.

 

People in the Northern Territory, especially those in our regions, know all too well what happens when governments rush important reforms, when political expedience is put before serious input from those affected.

 

The Country Liberals Government will not make these same mistakes, we have already undertaken a comprehensive consultation process, completing 177 community visits and asking residents: ‘what do you want from your local government’.

 

Proposed legislation for the initial changes will receive a full third reading in Parliament, giving all members of the Legislative Assembly a chance to debate the Bill. I look forward to this opportunity.

 

Alison Anderson (pictured)

Minister for Local Government

 

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8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Russell Guy
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Janet, this term ‘paternalism’ keeps popping up in your posts. It was used mostly during the 1970/80s to refer to government policies that generally kept Aboriginal people on the receiving end of well-intended, but delusional realities resulting in dysfunctional outcomes.
    I say generally, because you can’t blame governments for everything and recipients found a way to embrace paternalism for their own means, but the word these days fits more with terms like ‘nanny state’, itself open to ideological interpretation.
    I suggest that ‘paternalism’ could be used to describe the sometimes sinister intents of an unrestrained market. Unless it was restrained, the tobacco industry would have us know that there was no proven link to smoking and lung cancer.
    Many drugs and products have also been removed from the market because their claims have proven false or injurious to the general public.
    Some politicians fit this mold, however, the present era, as I discussed in an earlier post, is subject to moral relativism in a secular democracy and Australians defend their lifestyle more than the cost of living.
    A case in point is the amount spent on alcohol, its abuse and the cost forced upon us largely because the alcohol industry proves resistant to any form of paternalism. In this, we are world leaders, although, it seems, Greece is a contender.

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  2. Paul Parker
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Re Janet and Bob.
    It is my understanding the various Land Trusts issued few leases.
    Unlikely the Commonwealth Government owns “public” housing in these communities.
    Commonwealth arranged some leases previously so had rights to arrange repairs.
    IMHO the NTG has NO public housing stock in these communities.
    The NTG obtained and may still have some leases for small areas of land including some housing, under leases from the Land Trusts in these communities.
    Serious question for NTG is how many of the leases obtained and held by NTG for clinics, local government, power stations, police stations, schools, water plants, along with related housing, and any other leases, have (a) already expired, (b) expire in less than ten years or (c) longer than ten years ?
    Question for NTG is whether it is prepared to pay above fair value market rates to renew these leases it currently has?
    Question for all is just what are fair value market rates for land in these communities?
    Apart from managing properties where it obtained and still holds leases directly from the Land Trusts, the NTG is mostly a contractor.
    NTG managed some housing for the Commonwealth where the Commonwealth obtained leases by act of Commonwealth Parliament or obtained leases from the Land Trusts, and appointed the NTG as its property manager.
    All activities undertaken in accordance with these are believed to be under signed written agreements between the Commonwealth and the NTG.
    The accountability of the Land Trusts – both public and to their “Traditional Owner” shareholders remains a public disgrace with standards similar to pre-Mandela apartheid “homeland” practices in South Africa.

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  3. Janet Brown
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 7:47 am

    @bob. So here you go again your paternalism written in plain language (paternalism the most sinister form of racism) who are you to deny people the right to home and land ownership.

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  4. Paul Parker
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Observer
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm: Yes, we are denied a lease.

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  5. Observer
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Paul, I understand you to be saying that you and your traditional owner wife are not allowed to live in a house on the Haasts Bluff Land Trust without a lease and that you are not able to get a lease. Is that correct?

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  6. Paul Parker
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Our family has not received advice from the Central Land Council concerning a change to their – and Haasts Bluff Land Trust, positions.
    Those residents, Traditional Owners, possess NO right to live in a house together, or receive visitors, in our purported family homes (constructed with public monies) until we obtain valid leases from the Haasts Bluff Land Trust; They continue their refusal to provide such leases.
    Commonwealth needs amend the Aboriginal Land Rights Act NT (ALR NT) to remove existing exemptions which enable the ALR (NT) corporate landowners to constantly deny their residents and tenants valid leases.
    Amendments to ALR (NT) need require NT standard tenancy lease terms and conditions – or better, be deemed to apply immediately except where these corporate landowners have already entered into valid and reasonable leases.
    Where a existing ALR (NT) leases believed to be unreasonable then judicial consideration should be available.
    Where government requires ALR (NT) land to provide basic services and believes agreements not able to be entered into then resumption of the land with payment of required “just compensation”.
    Such decisions by governments need remain subject to judicial appeal, if felt unreasonable.
    Where land or leases are not provided, then responsibility and liability rests with these corporate land-owners to ensure public standards apply, with these open to legal judgments for resulting damages.
    Only the ALR (NT) corporate entities risking their own monies over these basic services is likely to enable reasonable developments.

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  7. Bob Durnan
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Janet, ever the muddle-headed wombat on the scene, reckons “there is no home ownership in all communities” and “Pressure on the Feds to give ownership to traditional owners would be a great start to a real voice. Stop the hand outs that deprive people of dignity and self respect.”
    Have I got this right Janet? You want the Commonwealth Government (which doesn’t own the public housing in Aboriginal communities) to somehow gift most of the NTG’s public housing stock in remote communities to the local traditional owners (who constitute a small proportion of the residents of most communities), because handouts are bad?
    Wouldn’t this just create a whole new mess Janet, with a local ruling elite as land lords, but without any experience as managers and maintainers of rental housing, and without any apparatus for collecting the rents, managing the tenancies and maintaining the houses?
    And how could this giving (ie handouts) of houses be “good” if “handouts” are by your definition bad?

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  8. Janet Brown
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:10 am

    I have no issue with what the minister is doing but I do have issue with these extremely large shires and funding.
    Councils raise funding from rates, grants and other business implemented by council that assist in funding council operations.
    As there is no home ownership in all communities how are rates collected, if any is collected at all.
    Are our stations going to be the only funding through rates?
    Pressure on the Feds to give ownership to traditional owners would be a great start to a real voice.
    Stop the hand outs that deprive people of dignity and self respect.
    The CLP were very decisive that the shires would be closed down and revert back to community councils.
    This was due to the debts accrued by the shires. The Feds then changed the job network system and CDEP and relocated to the shires to give funding to assist shires.
    This closed down private businesses that ran the job network businesses in remote areas. Private business still operate in major towns.

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