The United States wasn’t the only place in the world to get a new president this week. Local governments across Australia have elected a new leader for their representative peak body.
Following in the footsteps of Troy Pickard, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) elected David O’Loughlin to become its new president and lead the way for councils across the nation.
Mr O’Loughlin, who currently serves as the Mayor of the South Australia’s City of Prospect and has previously served as the President of the Local Government Association of South Australia and has played a role on the ALGA Board for three and a half years, was elected as ALGA’s new president at the association’s annual general meeting in Toowoomba on 9th November, 2016.
Mr O’Loughlin said it was an honour to be elected President of ALGA and that he was confident in local government’s capacity to face the challenges that lay ahead.
“Councils across the country face challenging financial circumstances with rising community expectations and calls for more services and infrastructure. This is against a backdrop of fiscal constraints, including rate capping in some instances,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
He said that his priority in his role as ALGA President will be to push for increased funding, services and infrastructure for local communities through a “stronger relationship between federal and local government”.
Direct funding from the Commonwealth has been a nagging issue for councils in Australia because federal programs such as Financial Assistance Grants (FAG) and Roads to Recovery aren’t protected through constitutional recognition, and come under direct threat to lawsuits like the Pape and Williams cases from 2009 and 2012.
The most recent attempt at a referendum for constitutional recognition of local government was in 2013 when Prime Minister Julia Gillard approved for it to take place simultaneously with the federal election, but the return of Kevin Rudd in the top job led to a change of date for the election, and consequently, the referendum was cancelled.
The subsequent election of the Abbott government led to a National Commission of Audit, which identified FAG indexation to be frozen in the 2013-14 Annual Budget, which hit council funding hard.
As for the new ALGA President, Mr O’Loughlin paid tribute to his predecessor, City of Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard.
“Over the past two years, Mayor Pickard has led the charge in making sure local government’s voice is heard, particularly in the national infrastructure debate. I thank and commend Mayor Pickard for his efforts, his commitment and the energy that he brought to the presidency,” Mr O’Loughlin said.