I am pleased to present to Parliament the seventh annual report on the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.
This report, on the distribution of Federal Government financial assistance grants to Local Governments, has been prepared with cooperation between all levels of Government. In 2001-02, the Federal Government provided just under $1.4 billion in financial assistance grants to Australian local councils and this report includes information on how the funds are distributed in accordance with agreed national principles of equity and fairness.
Local government is a publicly accountable key player in all our lives, providing us with a wide range of day-to-day essential services and responding to local community priorities. This report records the distribution of Federal Government grants and the efficiency and effectiveness with which local government, as a significant and vital sector of the Australian economy, provides services and administers funds for the benefit of local communities across the Nation.
Since becoming the Minister for Local Government in early 2002, I have made a substantial effort to address some of the primary challenges currently confronting Local Governments. In particular, while I am pleased that Local Governments are gaining more responsibilities, I am concerned that many councils are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain adequate revenue to maintain current service levels as well as meet the resourcing requirement of their diverse range of new responsibilities.
In May 2002 I announced the Local Government and Cost Shifting Inquiry to be conducted by The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration. The Committee will address some fundamental issues relating to the financing and responsibilities of Local Government that need to be considered. I am pleased to have included in this report, at Chapter 6, relevant information about the Inquiry, which is due to be completed in the latter part of 2003.
I commend this report to you on the operation of the Local Government Financial Assistance Act in 2001-02.
Minister for Regional Services, Territories
and Local Government