This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
They say all politics is local. They also say local government is where the rubber of services hits the road. Motorists who ventured into the regions this long weekend, especially in the south-eastern corner of the country, would have noticed after the months of rain there was plenty of rubber but not much left of the road.
So bad are the potholes in some places, so stretched the local councils in getting out to fix them, some individuals are doing it for themselves. Predictions of a third La Nina mean the roads, like inflation, are going to get worse before they get better. Enter the federal government. Back in the 1970s, the Whitlam government decided that in an increasingly complex world, councils needed direct financial help from the Commonwealth. It was an unsung reform.
The Fraser government set aside 2 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue for local government. This was dropped back to 1 per cent by the Hawke government. A system of Financial Assistance Grants was established, which has hung around for 40 years. Trouble is in 2000 along came the GST, from which state governments received a share but poor old local government did not. This has meant the percentage of Commonwealth Tax Revenue directed to councils has been in steady decline ever since, during which time the cost of just everything has headed skyward.
New Local Government Minister Kristy McBain knows all about the challenges local councils face. As mayor of the Bega Valley Shire, she had to steer through some hefty and unpopular rate hikes while dealing with a succession of climate-fuelled disasters.
She is now responsible for delivering Labor's local government commitments, among them a $750 million extension to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program and, more importantly, "fair increases" to the Financial Assistance Grants Program. "Fair" should take into account the ruination of local roads at the hands of La Nina.
Nothing quite infuriates like potholes. Councils tend to be the blame-hounds because they're the ones fixing them - only to see their work washed away in the next downpour. Reforming the system so councils have enough cash to fix their roads should be a priority for the new federal government.
After all, we all use local roads. And we vote.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What's the state of local roads where you live? Does our three-tiered system of government work when it comes to roads? Email us: email@example.com
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, has been sworn in as the US Ambassador to Australia. The author and lawyer succeeds Arthur Culvahouse, who left the position in early 2021, when former Republican president Donald Trump left office.
- Health authorities have warned that ecstasy pills with twice the average dose of MDMA are circulating in NSW. NSW Police recently seized the high-dose pills, which are pink, irregularly shaped and bear an Audi logo.
- A Google engineer has been forced on leave after saying an artificial intelligence chatbot had become sentient and was thinking and reasoning like a human being.
THEY SAID IT: "I saw the years of my life spaced along a road in the form of telephone poles threaded together by wires. I counted one, two, three... nineteen telephone poles, and then the wires dangled into space, and try as I would, I couldn't see a single pole beyond the nineteenth." - Sylvia Plath
YOU SAID IT: "Could a Trump-like politician see real success in Australia? Hope not! ScoMo appeared to flirt with 'following' his example. Luckily, to no avail." - Roger
"A Trump-like politician will get in should we become a republic and don't get it right." - Gary
"When we still have die-hard conservatives who trumpet Trump for 'turning America around, who see no defect in his grossly flawed personality and who admire his personal wealth and the manner in which it was accumulated, then, you betcha, we could see a similar personality supported by some voters in this nation. We already had an embryonic version in Morrison and I'm not at all sure that we don't have another in Dutton." - Douglas
"If we Australians are to avoid the poisonous political situation as seen in the US, then much of the responsibility must come down to our media. One of our politicians or personalities can espouse certain views but it ultimately will be our media which chooses to promote his or her opinions. The media must sort out the 'childish stunts and extreme language' if we are not to become Americanized (just had to use the z)." - Dave
"I feel your description of Trumpism is very apt. We had admirers in the last government but we are a sceptical lot." - Yvonne
"Nasty man that Trump. God forbid any return to American politics." - David
"We should remember our governing system came under serious threat in the 1970s when Malcolm Fraser blocked supply in the Senate. Thank God we had a monarchy with a Governor General, John Kerr, who was able to step in and break the deadlock. Our monarchy worked well during this time of crisis. We should think very carefully about destroying it. Replacing it with an American style republic would be a very dangerous step as the turmoil in USA clearly warns us." - Arthur
"I don't think that a Trump-like politician would be successful in Australia with our current democratic systems. Compulsory proportional voting will help to keep us in the middle ground and the recent failures of Captain's Picks by party leaders to override internal party democracy have been rejected by voters. But I do see that our democracy is under threat from big business and the weakening of independent press. The reputation and reliability of the press has been trashed by Murdoch and is now competing against the internet, which has no controls against manipulation and is free from the need for truth or balance." - Ian
"As a Canadian I take umbrage at your using the name America when referring to the United States. We are also living in America - North America, as is Mexico. Then there is Central America and South America whose citizens also wrankle when hearing the name. As for referring to them as your baying, brawling cousins - you can have them. We're not related." - Linda
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.