Local councils push Labor to honour full commitment to include them in national cabinet

Local councils will continue to push to be made full members of national cabinet, warning that being invited to one meeting a year falls short of Labor’s commitment.

Linda Scott, president of the Australian Local Government Association, welcomed the foot in the door given to the third tier of government at Friday’s national cabinet meeting, but she said it “will not consider [Labor’s] commitment to have been delivered until ALGA is a full voting member at all national cabinet meetings”.

Before the election Labor accused Scott Morrison of having “kicked local government to the kerb when he replaced [the Council of Australian Governments] with the national cabinet”.

Labor’s policy said local government played an “important part” in Coag, but the Liberals had pushed local government “to the kiddies table” by not including them on national cabinet.

“In addition to re-establishing the Australian Council of Local Government, Labor is also committed to putting local government on national cabinet.”

But at the press conference on Friday, Albanese revealed that local government would be represented at just one national cabinet meeting a year despite national cabinet meeting at least four times a year.

Albanese said local government would come to “a future meeting of the national cabinet and the treasury body once a year so all levels of government can be involved”.

Under Scott Morrison local council was invited once a year to the national federation reform council, which included both national cabinet and the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) as members.

Scott, who is a Labor councillor on the City of Sydney council, said the ALGA welcomed “the appointment of local government to the national cabinet and are pleased that it will now dedicate one of its four annual meetings to local government matters”, along with the CFFR.

Scott said that before the election local government had been “pleased to secure” a commitment from Albanese for representation on national cabinet.

“However, we will not consider this commitment to have been delivered until ALGA is a full voting member at all national cabinet meetings.

“ALGA will take the opportunity to place its full voting membership on the agenda of the first national cabinet meeting we attend, with a view to ensuring we are able to attend all meetings as a full voting member in the future.”

Scott said local government should also be a full voting member of CFFR and participate in ministerial councils, including on climate change, energy, and housing.

“While local governments are always the quiet achievers in our federation, we deliver. Without a local government voice in the governance of Australia’s federation, our communities risk being left behind.”

Scott said local government wanted to “secure fair funding that will ensure the financial sustainability of every council and community” through national cabinet.

The stoush over inclusion of local councils comes after Albanese backtracked on his previous strident criticism of national cabinet secrecy and refused to answer questions about why he had done so.

On Friday Albanese confirmed the commonwealth had not proposed ending the practice, despite his accusation that Morrison was “obsessed with secrecy”.

In opposition the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said Labor’s position was that national cabinet was “never subject to cabinet-in-confidence rules for FOI requests, and we would adhere to this in office”.

Asked if he had proposed ending national cabinet secrecy and if so what had changed from his earlier criticism, Albanese replied “no”, refusing to answer the second half of the question about why it had not raised the issue.

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