Ministers statements: Local Government Rates Update

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I rise to provide the house with an update on the progress of our new initiative: the much-anticipated fair go rates system. I know it has been anticipated because ratepayers tell me they are tired of yearly rate increases well above CPI — rate increases like a 9 per cent increase in 2008 and a 6 per cent increase in 2009 in the city of Geelong, when the member for South Barwon was a councillor down there.

The house will be interested to know that the Essential Services Commission as of yesterday had received 252 submissions providing advice and views on the design of the system. The submissions came from councils, peak bodies, ratepayers associations and individuals. We even have one submission from the opposition spokesperson for local government, who still cannot bring himself to commit to a view on the policy design of a framework that will help families manage their budgets.

I know that the Essential Services Commission will methodically work through these submissions, and I look forward to bringing further reports to the house. I note that a number of concerns have been raised in the submissions so far which mirror things that the councils have told me. They are concerns around falling funding in real terms from the federal government. For instance, Rural Councils Victoria notes that the federal government’s freeze of indexation for federal assistance grants is having a huge effect on rural councils.

The federal government was unfair. It did not listen, and it does not care. The most recent federal budget has made things worse for our councils. The federal budget has seen a real cut to local government funding by not providing a CPI increase.