“Reform of Local government should have started with a full and open inquiry into Local government finances”. Said the Honorary Peter Primrose MLC, the Shadow Minister for Local Government,
“The real problem that we see is that you actually have the government saying – 'Oh, a lot of these Councils – it's a problem with their finances.' Well I can tell you one reason there is a problem with the finances is because NSW Local Government found last year that there had been $680 million worth of state government responsibility cost shifted onto local councils.
A parliamentary inquiry I was on in 2015-16 found you don't solve any of these problems by making councils bigger. There is no evidence at all that making councils bigger makes them better.
What you have to do is have a full, open, and transparent inquiry into council's finances in NSW. So we've signed up to that. That's one of the first things the next Labor government will do.”
As Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose has been fighting at the centre of the controversy over council amalgamations, Fit For The Future, and that KPMG report!
“This has got to be one of the most secretive governments I've ever seen” comments Peter who was first elected to NSW Parliament in 1988 as Member for Camden. “You just cant get information out of them. Whether it's to do with KPMG report that they used to forcibly merge councils, water, or anything else,” he says.
What we're saying to all those councils that have been forcibly merged is that a Labor Government will allow them to have a voluntary demerger if they wish to.”
In relation to the proposed sale of the Snowy Hydo to the Commonwealth Government. “We've put restrictions on the sale for our support. We've said it must stay in public ownership, and we want worker's entitlements protected, but we've also said that we want 100 per cent of the profits, and that net profit will be between $5 and $6 billion, so not an insubstantial amount of money. We want 100 per cent to go to rural and regional NSW.
John Barillaro who heads up the National Party, and is Deputy Premier has said, 'No'. They will put 30 per cent into rural and regional NSW which means 70 per cent goes back into Sydney. We are going to have a real fight with them about that!
That's a huge difference. That's the sort of money you could use to fix up roads, to fix up water, and all the other infrastructure in rural and regional NSW”.
“One of the most fundamental things is that local government has to be local. Everybody agrees councils need to be accountable, and they need to be trying their best to meet the needs of the local community, but in the end, I really think one of the most fundamental issues of the moment, and we're certainly promoting it, is that decisions should be made by local people.
Local people elect the councils, they should be responsible to their local communities for their actions. If a council makes a really bad mistake then they should get thrown out by their local communities. The people you have to explain to are the people in your local communities.
That's why Federal Labor, why Bill Shorten, has already committed himself to ensure that councillors and Local Government are put into the Constitution.
The other thing is in terms of keeping self interest and corruption out of Local Government, we're adamant that property developers should be stopped from running for local government. They can run, but if they get elected, the only way they can take their seat on council is if they cease to be property developers, or a close associate of property developers as defined in the Electoral Funding Act. We will bring that in again in government.
Accountability is the most important thing and accountability to your local community. If people do great things; their local community should re-elect them and applaud them. If they do bad things, then the local community should vote them out and put people in they have more trust in.”