Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Local Government Funding

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:15): My question is for the Minister for Local Government. I have asked in this place before about a stabilisation fund and other ways to provide financial stability to smaller rural councils. The responses I have received talked about the rural councils transformation program, Sustainability Fund partnerships, spending allowances for smaller rural councils—which probably would not even in some cases fund one road project—and the library fund. Whilst these are great initiatives, they do not even touch the sides of the issue of long-term sustainability for councils. The rate caps only make their sustainability more doubtful. Whilst I can see the merits and necessity for rate caps, ratepayers still expect councils to deliver the same amount of services with a reduction in revenue. There remains the problem of the incredible disparity between rich, growing, financially prosperous metropolitan councils and councils in rural areas, which seem to receive the crumbs in terms of spending. I understand there is a rates bill coming to the house in a few months, but unfortunately it will not deal with this issue. My one, singular question is: Minister, can you explain why a stabilisation fund is not actively being explored for rural councils?

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:19): Thanks, Minister, fantastic answer. Clearly housing is an issue that would uplift the rate base of councils, and despite the future of the rate cap it would help the financial situation of rural and regional councils hugely. There are places in my electorate— as you would be well aware of, I am sure—that have seen an incredible demand for housing, like you mentioned with the displacement of those from metropolitan to regional areas. I have spoken about the low rental vacancies before around Western Victoria in particular. I have suggested a regional housing summit to gather ideas about how we can fix the housing crisis. Whilst housing is not necessarily in your portfolio, it is an issue that will directly go to the financial sustainability of councils. The Minister for Housing we have spoken to; he was receptive to the idea. But my question I suppose is: will you, Minister, speak with the Minister for Housing to progress the idea of a regional housing summit, given the benefits for local councils?


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