Local Government & Social Business

First presented at the Just and Vibrant Communities National Local Government and Community Development Conference, Jupiters Townsville Hotel, Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville , 27-30 July 2003

Local government is too small to make a difference in social areas and too small to make a difference in the economic sphere. It’s main function is to provide minimal levels of infrastructure such as roads, rates and rubbish.

These are the traditional views of local government.

All of us at this conference know that if there ever was any substance in these arguments, that substance has dissipated. However there is rightly a need for caution, it is dangerous, given Australia’s notorious fiscal and administrative centralism, for local authorities to act as the final problem-solver for Federal and State governments.

The situation can be summed up by saying: social and economic responsibility is unavoidable but the form of action that is taken is critical. It is no help to anyone if the local authority fails or crumbles by assuming too much responsibility.

This is where this marvellous new concept of social business is so exciting for local authorities. It gives local government manageable responsibility and creates a new paradigm for the way local administration can, and I believe, will be structured in the future.