Speech to Indigenous Leaders Forum, LGAQ, Cairns 31/05/2013

Good morning Councillors - it is an honour for me to be in such distinguished company with so many elected mayors and Councillors.

Thanks you very much for allowing me to be with you for your Indigenous Leaders Forum here in Cairns today.

I read about your Local Government Group in a newsletter I received from my friend and your LGAQ President, Margaret De Wit and I asked Margaret if she could facilitate a meeting with you all, some time. So I am delighted this meeting has happened so quickly and that I am able to catch up with you today at this important gathering.

At the moment I am working very hard to make my Leader, Tony Abbott, the next Prime Minister of our country.

As you know,Tony has had a long association and commitment to people in remote indigenous communities - and well before he became our leader, he would spend his annual leave, living and working in areas particularly on the Cape, helping out where he could - and I might add he did that without the huge media contingent usually associated these days with other politicians, when they pop in for a photo opportunity.

Tony is keen to work with you to the betterment of the people you represent and he has asked me to pass on to you a message of support and goodwill. I will read his message

I am pleased to offer my best wishes to everyone attending the Local Government Association of Queenslands Indigenous Leaders Forum in Cairns.

The event is an important one for the representatives of Queenslands 17 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Councils. It gives their councillors and representatives the opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing their local areas.

Over the past few years I have spent several weeks in Indigenous communities in Queensland and have seen first-hand the issues these areas face. It is important that representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Councils have the chance to meet, share ideas and plan for the best future for their communities.

I congratulate Cape York councils, in particular, for their determination to break the welfare cycle that has damaged local communities and for their support for Aboriginal peoples right to take responsibility.

Local government is an important part of our democratic system, a true example of grassroots democracy. As one tier in our system of government, it is important that we continue to have vibrant and strong local councils.

I am sure the discussions that will take place during this years Forum will be interesting and worthwhile.
As a former councillor myself and as the Minister for Local Government in the early days of John Howard's Government, I am a great fan of local councils.

I travel widely around Northern and RemoteAustralia, in my current role as the Oppositions Shadow on the North and remote areas.

I always make it a rule whenever I travel, to call in on the local councils because I know councillors are the best people to tell me what is happening in their areas, what the issues are and more importantly, what the solutions can be.

I know councillors are elected by their communities not only to govern their towns but also to represent their people in wider forums.

I am pleased to say with some pride that the Queensland Minister for Local Government, David Crisafulli who was with you yesterday, has learnt that rule well from me during the time he worked for me when I was Local Government Minister - well that's my story anyhow - even though at times, because of the difficult financial position the current Queensland Government finds itself in, as a result of themismanagement of its predecessor, his message may not always be welcomed. But he, like me, understands the importance of taking guidance from locally elected leaders.

I am aware that elected councillors pay respect and listen to the advice of the Elders in their communities but the decisions they make at Council, are for all of their people,

In recent years in Canberra I am disappointed to see that Federal government seems to consult mainly with unelected people and bodies, who very often have been appointed by the Central Government to deliver Canberra views and positions to remote areas, rather than hear of what is really happening .

That iswhy it is so essential for a new Government, to work closely with councils on a range of issues important to remote Australians. There wont be a lot of money around to do many of the things we all want to happen, but if we listen and understand, we are in a better position to make a difference.


And I know other MPs, like Warren Entsch and David Kempton in this part of the world and Noeline Ikin who I hope will be the next Member for Kennedy, have close and intimate relationships with Indigenous people in the north and west of our State, and will be working with you on your issues

As someone who, like you, lives and works in places remote from capital cities , I understand the additional costs that the Carbon Tax makes to everything councils do. I understand what waste and mismanagement has done to the projects that are so essential to remote Australians, which have had to be postponed, and I know how Canberras decisions have restricted councils taking full advantage of the opportunities that are available and that could create real jobs and a future built on hope and reward.

Thats why the first task of a new government, should we have the honour to lead Australia after the next election, will be to repeal the Carbon tax to lessen costs, particularly in distant parts, to encourage investment and therefore jobs in remote areas by getting rid of the Mining Tax, and to stop the waste and mismanagement that has lead to us forking out $35 million every day in interest on monies that have been borrowed by a government that cannot live within its means.

If your Councils ran your finances the way the current Federal Government runs its, you would have been dismissed long ago and Administrators appointed. You balance your budgets. The Federal Government is incapable of doing that. Perhaps they should be learning from you!

But again - thank you for having me with you today. I look forward to hearing your issues now.

Working together as elected representatives of our people, we can achieve those things that we know are right and best for the areas we serve. I look forward to the time, when together, we can make a difference.

Good Luck and Congratulations on what you do.

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