Save Bombala Inc. and Save Tumbarumba Shire groups questions to Eden Monaro By-Election 2020 candidates

Questions to Eden Monaro By-Election Candidates 2020

1. Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

2. If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

3. Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

4. Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

Candidate responses

Jason Potter

Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

I don't support forced mergers of local councils. Mergers should only occur with the support of the local communities involved. A democratic vote should always occur prior to the merger of any local councils. We know that the more councils are regionalised, the more local services suffer.

If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

There is a broader issue here, we need legislation protecting local councils from forced mergers. As a party we are committed to supporting the needs and aspirations of local communities. No elected member of the Australian Federation Party will ever vote against the majority wishes of their electorate. This means I would represent you and your concerns to state and federal colleagues to make sure local needs are well represented.

Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

If I was elected to represent Eden-Monaro, the major parties would do anything to win the seat back. This would put our community in a great position to make sure that appropriate and necessary funding was available to local councils.

Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

I believe in evidence based decision making, and as I have not had the opportunity to look at the finances of the councils mentioned I can't comment on their current financial performance. However, as a broad principle, I do believe councils should be accountable for their financial performance, this is particularly true of local Mayors who sometimes lead their councils into significant debt and then move on to other political spheres.

Sustainable Australia Party - Joy Angel

Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

Sustainable Australia Party and Joy Angel would support a binding referendum of local communities.

If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

Sustainable Australia Party and Joy Angel would speak to the referendum issue in Parliament.

Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

Yes, Sustainable Australia Party and Joy Angel will work to ensure the solvency of local councils.

Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

Sustainable Australia Party and Joy Angel are concerned about waste and mismanagement. We would support an independent audit.

Karen Porter - The New Liberals

1. Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

I support this as I believe that the mega councils cannot provide great customer service when they are so big. Bombala and Tumbarumba are both communities that can thrive as their own council.

If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

I will work with other like minded people to build a case for the demerge and lobby to make it happen.

Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

Yes and I would also work with council so that they were able to run council like a business. Raising rates is short sighted, taking time on climate action is poor and Snowy 2.0 could be better spent in each towns that as a centre storage program.

Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

The council needs a major review to assess whether the right people are in the leadership roles, that programs are being managed effectively and more importantly that the people in the region are being given the best customer service. Our council needs to be making the processes easier rather than putting road blocks in place.

Kristy McBain - Labor

As a councillor and Mayor of Bega Valley Shire, I understand the importance of the bond between Ccouncils and their local communities.

Local government is the closest level of government to the community and plays such an important role in the everyday life of our towns.

I've always said that local voices need to be heard on local issues. The fact is that the way in which these council amalgamations occurred ignored the wishes of too many locals.

We need to find a better way of making local government more responsive to the needs of their communities.

With respect to forced mergers, Federal Labor supports the position set out by NSW Labor which opposes forced mergers and supports the right of communities to have a say in their future via a community plebiscite.

In terms of Financial Assistance Grants, this program provides un-tied funding which allows councils to deliver services and facilities to their communities. They are the ones best placed to understand the needs of their local area.

Councils around Australia are suffering today from the decision of the Liberals and Nationals to freeze the Financial Assistance Grants indexation in the 2014-15 Budget for three years.

In aggregate, this decision deprived local councils of $925 million over those years and as you note these impacts have been felt locally.

This permanent funding cut has meant that local governments around Australia have been forced to reduce services, increase fees and put off much needed capital works. This cut has been particularly hard on rural councils and shires like those across our region due to their smaller rate bases.

The Financial Assistance Grants are a proven method of delivering financial support to local councils. As a councillor and former mayor of Bega Valley Shire Council I understand the need for financial stability in local government and will work with local councils to support communities in Eden-Monaro.

Fiona Kotvojs - Liberals

Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

I believe in evidence-based decision-making and the importance of transparency of process. From my perspective, the decisions to merge Tumbarumba and Tumut Shires lacked transparency. The full evidence on which the decision was based was not made public. I understand that the process associated with the merger of Bombala was similar. This lack of transparency means that people are unable to determine whether to decision was fair and reasonable. I do not support this process because of the lack of transparency. I am therefore pleased that the boundaries Commissioner is reviewing this decision.

If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

I will work for the findings of the boundaries Commissioner review to be made public with full transparency about the basis on which the recommendations are made. I will support the community and council in implementing the recommendations from this review. I anticipate that this will involve working with relevant state members of Parliament and ministers.

Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi-million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

The Financial Assistance Grants program provides much-needed assistance to local governments and is protected by law (the Local Government Financial Assistance Act). There are no plans to change this program, and there have been no cuts.

The Morrison Government recently brought forward $1.3 billion in program expenditure from 2020-21 to this financial year to help councils address local priorities through the COVID-19 pandemic. This early payment was made to states and territories on May, 25, 2020. Snowy Monaro Regional Council is receiving $9.7 million through the program in 2019-20, with nearly $40 million being delivered across the Eden Monaro electorate over the same period.

Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

I recognise that there are members of the community who have deep concerns about the financial management practices of their council, including Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro. However, not having gone through the financial records of each council for several years in detail and investigated the outcomes, I do not have the evidence required to make an informed decision in regards the manner or efficiency of council financial management. As I believe in evidence-based decision-making and the importance of transparency in decision making I, therefore, do not believe it would be appropriate for me to make an assessment at this stage.

Cathy Griff - Greens

Do you agree with and support the communities of Bombala and Tumbarumba in their efforts to demerge from the forcibly merged Snowy Valleys Council and Snowy Monaro Regional Council and to restore local government control back to those communities?

I support the wishes of the Bombala and Tumbarumba communities since I believe that, if elected, my job is to represent the people of Eden Monaro. It is my understanding at present that the majority want to demerge from the Snowy Valley and Snowy Monaro councils and have the previous local government areas restored. However I will need to verify that this is a view of the majority of constituents affected.

I believe that Grass Roots Democracy is a vital part of a fair and cohesive society. Proper representation at local government level is essential. Council mergers tend to undermine this representation.

If so, how will you work with and lobby the state government and your state colleagues to restore Tumbarumba and Bombala councils in support of those communities' efforts?

If elected, I will work closely with NSW Greens MP Local Government spokesperson, David Shoebridge, to continue his work in this area. I will be the voice of Tumbarumba and Bombala residents in Federal parliament to demand the restoration of pre merger LGA's and councils if this is the majority desire.

Given that both Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional Councils are currently delivering multi million dollar annual operating losses year on year, (in the case of Snowy Valleys Council until 2030, in the case of Snowy Monaro until 2028) and are heavily reliant on government grants to continue operating, will you guarantee the continued levels of Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to these councils in light of the near one trillion dollar debt of the Federal Government?

I am at this stage unaware of the financial circumstances of the Snowy Valley and Snowy Monaro councils but if elected will be happy to investigate the statements you have made.

4. Given the poor performance and financial outlook for these two merged councils in Eden Monaro, how concerned are you about the manner and efficiency in which the Financial Assistance Grants are being spent on delivering effective services by Snowy Valleys and Snowy Monaro Regional councils?

Again, I am not across the financial management of these two councils but will be happy to investigate that matter if I am elected.

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