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What Fitzroy Council says about the Local Government Act review - Submissions until 16 March

"There are three aspects of the draft Exposure Bill that are of real concern: the first relating to the role of a council albeit its relationship to its community, the second the role of mayor and deputy mayor in their relationship to other councillors, and the third the electoral system and its relationship to its electors. [...] A duly elected city council should not be subservient to the State or proscribed a role that undermines the capacity of a council to engage with its community on a broad range of issues that impact on our lives. [...] The view that what is good for other levels of government should be replicated at the local level. This reinforces that local government is ‘government’ and not an administrative arm of the State." [Candobetter.net Editor: The state government is obviously trying to remove the capacity of residents to affect what happens in their local environment and suburb. We already have almost no democratic power at state or federal level - just reduced to a risible function of voting for Tweedledum or Tweedledumber. But local government is where it all happens. This is the first line of population policy, because the councils say whether there can be subdivision or new housing, which is what dictates population growth. VCAT has been used and abused by the State government to overturn council judgment, as has the insertion of State-paid Council CEOs. This attempt to rewrite the Act risks annihilating local governments in all but name. See also 'Population and Development Battlefronts' at the end of the statement by Fitzroy Council.]

Local Government Act reviewed?

The Local Government Act is being reviewed and is in its last throes of consultation before being adopted in May this year. The Act proscribes the role of local government and thus we residents have a lot to gain and much to lose in how our City Council works and carries out the role of governing our City and building a sustainable and liveable city for all.

The Yarra City Council’s response was tabled at its 6 March meeting and should be of interest to many residents who wish to ensure that the role of local government and its relationship to our State Government is collaborative and not subservient and that its pre-eminent relationship is to the community.

There are three aspects of the draft Exposure Bill that are of real concern: the first relating to the role of a council albeit its relationship to its community, the second the role of mayor and deputy mayor in their relationship to other councillors, and the third the electoral system and its relationship to its electors.

A duly elected city council should not be subservient to the State or proscribed a role that undermines the capacity of a council to engage with its community on a broad range of issues that impact on our lives.

If we revert to the ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ mantra our City will be the poorer. The current 1989 Local Government Act sets out a high level statement that reflects a contemporary role for a council whilst the draft reduces this to a series of governance principles together with a requirement that councils ‘cooperate with other government bodies’.

This would result in our council being beholden to other governments and thus reduce their independence as a legitimate level of government. The result of not incorporating into the Act an advocacy role would limit the community’s voice through its elected representatives.

And finally the electoral system which defines local representation and the voting process underpins the value and credibility placed on a city council. As the Yarra City Council report states

“Elections in the City of Yarra have long been conducted by attendance voting, and the Yarra City Council is disappointed that the Exposure Draft makes this unlikely to continue”.

Attendance voting builds community and provides a window for residents into their local neighbourhood. State and Federal governments mandate attendance voting though increasingly pre-poll voting is becoming popular. The view that what is good for other levels of government should be replicated at the local level. This reinforces that local government is ‘government’ and not an administrative arm of the State.

[End of Fitzroy Council statement]

Population and Development Battlefronts

Here is a quick lesson in how populations are controlled when societies are governed democratically.

Population Policy Battlefronts for democracy and ecological sustainability
1. Local Government
2. State Government
3. National Government
4. Global

1. Local Government

* power of limiting building permits (and thus of limiting population growth) in line with water catchment capacities, aesthetics, civil hygiene, preservation of agricultural land and natural amenities, like green wedges, nature reserves and parkland
* promotion of energy efficient public and private buildings
* facilitation of householder independence from the State power and sewerage grid
* incorporation of local indigenous species' needs for space, food and water within the concept of local planning and as participants in the regional ecology.
* residents should have self government
* local elected officials and paid staff are servants of residents and should not implement plans without their agreement
* food and fiber production should be local where possible, minimising energy used to transport goods in and out of a community

2. State Government

Wherever States have the responsibility for and power of limiting impact on the bio-regions within their borders they should exercise this within the context of national and local population policy. In Australia the states have the power over land-use and water sources and the ability and responsibility to signal when infrastructure is close to capacity. They have a number of tools for limiting urban expansion. Among these are:

*taxes on second homes, taxes on windfalls gained by sellers when land is rezoned,
*redevelopment, not new development - of old buildings, insulation of old buildings - instead of land-clearing for new construction. These taxes are there to feedback order into the allocation of construction permits and should not be relied upon as something that can be grown to subsidise increases in government spending.
*housing as a citizen's right, a state's duty and a public cost
*land-development by the state to provide low-cost land to undercut speculative private development, which raises costs through unreasonable profits, thus driving up all other costs, and providing a motive for overpopulation

- Water should not be disaggregated from land because this removes valuable biofeedback that signals limits to growth.

- State governments must be entirely transparent in all their transactions and so must the political parties in and out of government. See "John-Paul Langbroek and why the Liberal National Party won't survive unless Labor Governments reform."

- Business can only be the servant of democracy and should not dictate population limits.
- Economy is a subset of the environment.
- State governments have no business making plans for local government to follow if these are not inspected and agreed to in detail by local residents.

3. National Government

* adoption of democratic and ecologically informed population policy
* separation of political and administrative responsibility for population and immigration
* chairing of a cabinet committee on population by Prime Minister adoption of a consumption strategy
* aim to stabilise population numbers by:
- promoting small families and a
- zero net migration program - gives around 70,000 person-spaces
* plan immigration program for the humanitarian longterm, staggering intake to cope with foreseeable ongoing demands and climate change
* Change the emphasis on immigration and population research funding from its longstanding almost exclusive focus on internal migration and ethnic group demographics, in order to give far greater attention to population numbers, per capita energy use and environmental impact.

4. Global

Australia should support policies to help people to protect local controls over land-tenure, recognising that the population problems of Africa, India and the Pacific Islands, only started when colonisation dispossessed people from their local lands and stable economic traditions in homeostatic indigenous ecologies.

Australia should direct more money into foreign aid to combat the conditions that contribute to overpopulation by assisting initiatives for educating and enfranchising women, enhancing children's health, promoting family planning education and safe, non-coercive family planning methods and protecting local self-government and self-sufficiency.

Australia and other 'Developed' countries should cooperate with United Nations global initiatives in developing longsighted population policies which take into account our high environmental/energy consumption impact per capita.

As an ecologically impoverished commodity producer, Australia should lead other commodity producers by example and assist in the development and use of low energy consumption technology and lifestyle, being careful to keep its population low in conformity with the limiting characteristics of the continent's ecology and the nature of commodity dependent economies, which also do not require large volumes of workers, unless they are conducted as slave colonies to furnish cheap supply to other countries - a practice that is neither ethical, humane or sustainable.

Australia should not encourage high birth rates or high immigration without their constituents knowledge or agreement, based on useful and true information about optimal carrying capacity and the preservation of democratic rights and local empowerment.

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