I am pleased to present to Parliament the eighth annual report on the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.
Local government is not only a significant sector of the Australian economy but it also has an impact on our daily lives by providing essential services and responding to priorities at the community level.
In 2002-03, the Australian Government provided $1.455 billion in financial assistance grants through State governments to councils in support of the services they provide to communities. These funds are distributed in accordance with agreed national principles and this report provides an account of how the States allocate these funds between councils.
In meeting its legislative requirements, this report records the distribution of Australian Government grants to local government, and provides an account of various initiatives that seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness with which local government provides its services. The report also records the progress made in improving services to Indigenous communities. It has been prepared with the cooperation of all levels of government.
This report provides a wealth of information on the operation and performance of local government from a national perspective. It has become an important source of information for those working in the sector and for researchers and others wishing to better understand the sector.
For the first time, the report includes a detailed account of how the local government sector functions in a comparable country - Canada.
It also provides an account of efforts by all levels of government to collaborate through 'joined-up' activities.
Since becoming Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads at the beginning of October 2003, I have awaited the recommendations of the Local Government and Cost Shifting Inquiry, conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration. As the Committee reported in late November 2003, the reporting timeframe did not allow for a discussion of the Committee's findings in this year's report, but I look forward to a full consideration of the findings in the 2003-04 National Report.
I commend to you this 2002-03 report on the operation of the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads