In Australia, we have three tiers of government: Federal, State and Local Government – a system that has operated since Federation. In 1994 Premier Jeff Kennet sacked all 210 Victorian councils, replacing them with 78 (later 79) new bodies through forced amalgamation.
Central Goldfields Shire was thus created. This year (2024) is an election year for our community and with this in mind, I ponder the future of local government in Victoria. We have a State Government who has shown a willingness to make unilateral decisions regarding elected councils: sackings, putting in administrators, and the complete rewriting of the Local Government Act.
Increasingly, the State Government is putting in place mandated directives that councils must comply with, whilst at the same time restricting their ability to comply under the continued imposition of rate capping. For metropolitan councils with massive budgets this is manageable, but for small rural councils the cost as measured in both time and dollars is increasingly onerous.
In both the media and wider community, we are seeing much negative commentary about councils and their performance. In fairness some of the criticism is warranted. We see councils making decisions on national and international issues: The Voice, a Treaty, banning of nuclear submarines, the Gaza conflict, and flying foreign flags from council buildings.
Celebrating Christmas is taboo, Easter is frowned upon, and don’t dare mention Australia Day! Local councils should focus on local issues first. I would like to see a move back to the Three R’s and leave international politics and their solution to those put in power to do so!
Cr Geoff Lovett