By Alison Ryan

The SEQ Liveability Fund operating as a partnership between the Australian Federal Government, the Queensland Government and Council of Mayors (SEQ) Pty Ltd. sounds just like the Victorian Government which is “partnering” with Councils, forming what they call, the Local Government Mayoral Advisory Panel (LGMAP), which is made up of 13 Mayors from across Victoria to advise the Local Government Minister.

It was back on 21 March 2022 that the Federal Government under PM Morrison, the Qld Labor Government, and the Council of Mayors South East Queensland (SEQ) signed the SEQ City Deal which provides a shared commitment to “transform SEQ” and deliver “region-shaping infrastructure”.

It was the Morrison Federal Government that brought in the new National Federation Reform Council (NFRC) consisting of National Cabinet, Council on Federal Financial Relations, and ALGA. This new National Federation Reform Council established Expert Advisory Groups, NFRC Taskforces, National Partnership Agreements, and National Cabinet Reform Committees on topics relating to Rural & Regional, Skills, Energy, Housing, Transport & Infrastructure, Population & Migration and Health which all reported to the NFRC.

At this time PM Morrison had stated that National Cabinet had replaced COAG.

However from the developments we are seeing in Qld and Victoria, both the LNP then and Labor now have changed our Commonwealth Constitution. Constitutional law expert, University of Sydney Professor Anne Twomey, insists asserting that the National Cabinet is nothing more than a committee of the Federal Cabinet and is detrimental to the federal system.

“The concern is trying to pretend that an intergovernmental body which is comprised of premiers of each jurisdiction who are essentially equal in status, is in fact a body that is subordinate to the Commonwealth Cabinet,” Twomey says.

“It’s wrong, it’s nonsense, it’s inconsistent with the reason for Cabinet confidentiality which comes back to the principles of responsible government.”

Of further concern is the potential to extend confidentiality to documents created by advisory bodies like the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and other committees established by the National Cabinet. According to Twomey, this devolution of responsibility and protection is “murky”.

“We’ve now got to the point of saying that we have Cabinet committees which have not a single person on them who is responsible to any parliament in the country. That is so far removed from what cabinet confidentiality is there for as a principle, that it is absurd,” she says.

The present Australia Federal Relations Architecture map states that National Cabinet is Australia’s premier interjurisdictional body, providing governments with a forum to work collaboratively on issues of national significance.

For example: Mayor Cr Les McPhee of Swan Hill Rural City Council reported on June 22 2023 that Deputy Mayor, Stuart King, said he and Council CEO, Scott Barber had joined with other Mayors and CEOs from Murray River Group of Councils, for a series of meetings with Ministers, Shadow Ministers, and senior advisors at Parliament House in Canberra. They advocated for greater support for flood recovery efforts, infrastructure upgrades, renewable energy, recruitment and retention, housing shortages, rising costs of living, diversifying our economy, the Murray Darling Basin Plan and water buybacks.

News released on 25 Oct 2023 by the state’s infrastructure advisory body says that Victorians will be “happier” and tens of billions of dollars better off by 2056 if the state increases urban housing density rather than dispersing growth throughout the state. The research presents five urban development scenarios, including the ‘compact city’ which would see high density housing with more people living in townhouses or apartments in central Melbourne.

“The Victorian Government, working with local governments and communities, can influence the shape of our cities,” he said. The compact city will lock people into tight areas, with the “help” of local governments and “communities”. Would that be ghettos? It appears that the target year is 2056.