The jobs battleplan for Queensland
Queensland's local communities need all the help they can get right now, as we endure a public health lockdown in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councils across the state continue to answer the call in the best way they can, leading local disaster responses and providing rates and fee relief where possible.
That task has been made much harder following the Commonwealth's decision to exclude councils from its JobKeeper program.
In response to this disappointing move, the Local Government Association of Queensland has developed a $608 million battleplan to kick start local economies and create more than 14,000 jobs within a matter of months.
The Battleplan for Queensland Local Communities includes several programs like a $200 million Jobs Recovery Package - modelled on the Palaszczuk Government's successful Works for Queensland program but incorporating the state's southeast - to the creation of a 3,000-strong Green Army, charged with protecting the environment through fire mitigation and the management of waterways and foreshores.
We have presented the plan to the State Government in a bid to partner with the Premier and put the plan into action.
It is fast and furious but also local and logical at the same time. It will complement the good work already being done by the State.
Queensland councils are ready, willing and able to play their part. They have the ideas and projects to make a flying start. Councils have a critical contribution to make in the economic recovery of their communities, as well as the recovery of the state and the nation.
Now is not the time for us to sit on the sidelines, leaving the task solely to Canberra or William Street.
We are in the middle of a disaster, pure and simple, albeit one created by a pandemic.
It is our greatest challenge since the Great Depression- and it requires a proportionate response.
Councils have always played a crucial role in providing targeted and swift counter-economic stimulus. As was seen with the "Susso" workers during the Great Depression, local government played a pivotal role in the huge post-war reconstruction effort.
Councils executed major roadworks programs for the Fraser Government during the 82-83 recession, helped roll out a capitalised work-for-the-dole scheme in the early Hawke years, carried out similar capital works and employment programs during the 1991 recession, led the Roads to Recovery program for the Howard Government during an economic downturn in the late 1990s, stepped up again during the response to the Global Financial Crisis and, most recently, partnered with the Palaszczuk Government to deliver the successful Works for Queensland program to tackle persistently high unemployment in regional Queensland.
Why Councils? Because we do it quickly and without fuss. We can start delivering in weeks, not years.
Councils don't hold back any of the money and the rubber certainly meets the road. Better still, locals will be employed: the small contractors with a skid steer, back-end loader, gravel or water truck. Local tradespeople benefit, meaning money stays in the council area, stimulating local economies.
Importantly, this quick-fire $608 million suite of programs will stand as an important bridge for local economies until demand bounces back and the private sector roars back into life in 2021.
Accordingly, the LGAQ's battleplan, while immediate, works by identifying and addressing long-term strategic community need to ensure Queenslanders weather this COVID-19 storm and emerge from it in the strongest position possible.
We aren't proposing to paint rocks. This plan is well thought out and its initiatives have been proven to effective, time and again, during periods of economic crisis.
Now is the time for the State Government to partner with us in delivering in full this critical rebooting of local economies.
Greg Hallam is the CEO of the Local Government Association of Queensland