THIS might seem like a strange topic for a mayor to open up about, but I often think we are over-governed.
This is not a crack at any politician as such; more of a question about the roles of three levels of government.
In Australia, with our population approaching 25 million, is three levels of government (Federal, State and Local) and a myriad of statutory authorities (such as VicRoads, Barwon Water, EPA, etc) really needed?
Other countries with far greater populations make do with less.
One simple thought is that we could be just as well-served with the Federal Government overseeing the national interest, and a combination of state government and local council governing the more basic local requirements.
Without knowing the exact cost of running the country, it’s fair to say this model could save a few shekels.
Think of the potential drop in required infrastructure and resources with a greater clarity around exactly who is responsible for what community services.
Examples include the present confusion as to which roads the local council are responsible for and which belong to VicRoads (and who fixes which pothole), or who has control of our bays and rivers.
Too often our community doesn’t know who is responsible for many of the services, or for infrastructure renewal and maintenance.
Simplifying it all may make our governance model actually service us better.
Of course, the daily squabble over what funds are available via the tax and GST system may never go away.
The current distribution of this wealth is about 3 per cent to local councils, 9 per cent to the states, and the rest — about 88 per cent — to our federal colleagues.
Yes, the feds do distribute further funds to state and local governments, but it’s way short of the total collected each year.
Politicians of all persuasions sometimes seem to forget where that money actually came from in the first place.
Funding announcements, from multi-billion dollar clean energy funds/transport, etc … to the local playground upgrade, are promoted as ‘important community events’.
But too often we see politicians jostling to be front and centre before the media cameras.
Funding needs to be better streamlined and more equitable.
So the basic question is, are we getting good value for our dollar from our elected personnel and the associated statutory authorities across our three levels of government?
And is an election process the only time and the best mechanism we get to express our answer?
Just imagine for a moment: a bipartisan federal government genuinely making your hard earned tax and GST money work, building national infrastructure on a needs basis; and a state/local government body working to ensure the grassroots of our communities are being well served and financed. Too much blue sky thinking? We’ve seen the amalgamation and ever- restricting capacities of local councils over the years.
Rate capping and the convoluted processes to get extra funding are a debilitating drain on all.
So let’s cut to the chase and consider what might happen if the Federal Government announced a referendum on blending the two lower levels of government, with a governance and financial model that’s fit for purpose.
What would be the likely outcome?
Perhaps one day it will happen.
Or, perhaps Darryl Kerrigan, pictured, of 3 Highview Crescent, Coolaroo, was right when he said, “Tell ’em they’re dreaming.”