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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41669

Remarks, Local Government Association Dinner

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/06/2018

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 41669

Location: Canberra


Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

Welcome. We're here on the land of the Ngunawal People and we acknowledge their elders past and present.

David, I thank you. Thank you and there is a wonderful – as the Canberrans here will know - there is a wonderful Ngunnawal language group here in Canberra that have done so much to recover the Ngunnawal language.

You know there are a lot of things in Canberra that you're not aware of, probably some of them, if they’re political, you’re better to remain unaware of them.


But one of the most remarkable institutions here is an organisation or an institution called AIATSIS and Michael McDaniel the Chairman of that – is someone there clapping for AIATSIS there? - and it was established in the 60s by Menzies in fact. It has got an enormous collection of important cultural heritage, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage. But what is most extraordinary is the collection of recordings of language. You know, before European settlement in this country of ours, there were over 350 absolutely distinct Indigenous languages, each of them as different from the other as Hungarian is from French. So you can imagine that extraordinarily rich diversity which is one of the remarkable things about our country.

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world and we are as ancient as human civilization can be. Here in Australia, we have the oldest continuous human civilization on Earth; that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, we're as ancient as you can be. But as a migrant nation, we’re as young as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother, arriving and becoming an Australian citizen.

So, it is a remarkable country and you of course in local government, are the closest to the people. There's no doubt about that. Now I'm sure Warren and Stephen and John would agree with me on this; if you're running for Federal Parliament, you'll encounter lots of people. They will sometimes ask you interesting questions about vertical fiscal imbalance and you know, constitutional issues, but generally they'll say to you, they’ve got a problem. It's almost invariably a local government problem.

Now, if you don't want to get elected, what you should do is give them a lecture on constitutional law and say it's got nothing to do with the federal government. If on the other hand, you do want to get elected - and that has been my mission every time I've stood - what you do is you say: “Thank you very much, I've got that. I'm going to call the mayor right away and get it fixed”. That's how you get elected.


Now I just want to say how much I admire the work you do. My only achievement in local government is entirely derived from that of my wife Lucy. I am the first man to be the Lady Mayoress of Sydney.


She was of course the first woman to be Lord Mayor. But I want to talk about what we are doing to engage local government in a way that federal government, the Commonwealth Government, has never done before.

There is no question that we, in years past, have tended to be - federal government, state government local government - somewhat like ships passing in the night. We’ve generally been heading in broadly the same direction. We've always, I hope, been heading with goodwill and the best of intentions. But so often as you know, there has been so little coordination.

So, when I became Prime Minister I was determined to change that. What we have been setting up, one after the other – and over time this will cover the whole country - are City Deals.

Is Albert Van Zetten here from Launceston? He’s not here, well Albert's doing a fantastic job in Launceston ladies and gentlemen reviving the heart of Launceston. The first City Deal we did was with Launceston and what it involved is the state government, the Tasmanian government, federal government and the local government, city government, essentially agreeing on what we wanted to achieve and then committing our respective resources to work in coordination to achieve it. Steven Kennedy who is now the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure - where are you Steven? There he is, right here - Steven Kennedy is a very distinguished senior bureaucrat and he was responsible for the city's policy when I started it in my own Department. Now of course, as Secretary of Infrastructure he's involved with it at a broader level. But what we're doing is working collaboratively.

So the Western Sydney City Deal involved the federal government, it involve the state government led by Gladys Berejiklian and it involved eight local governments in Western Sydney, at least three of whom I know are represented here tonight. Where are you all? Here, there’s three of you here tonight at least. here. Well, what that involves is committing to coordinating our work on a North-South Rail Link between Penrith, to come down to the site - I should say, yes that's right - starting from North St. Mary's in the north, near Penrith, to come down to the new airport at Badgerys Creek, to go to the aerotropolis at north Bringelly. All of that, you can imagine, all of that development that is going to be enabled by that. What is the point of the coordination? The point is that you ensure you're working together and that you start to plan for the infrastructure, before you do the development. Isn't that a great idea? We haven't done enough of that in Australia, for a long time. So coordination; working closely with local government is our goal. But of course, not all local governments are in cities. One of the new approaches that we're taking - and John McVeigh will be responsible for this - is taking the concept of the City Deal and applying it to regions. So that once again you get people together, you work out what you want to achieve and that with that respect and understanding that comes from engagement, you can work together.

So far at the moment we have three City Deals that are agreed and underway. I've mentioned Launceston, Western Sydney and of course Townsville. We've got those three underway and we're working on others, Geelong and Hobart – there he goes, good to hear from Geelong - but we want to do this right across the country. It is very important to get greater engagement and involvement between federal government, state government and local government.

Now let me just conclude with an observation about cities and towns. Again, I recognise some of you. Is Tractor Ferguson here by the way, from Bulloo Shire Council? Tractor by the way, when I was travelling with John in Queensland, looking at some of the challenged drought areas, you know areas have been hit by drought in some cases for seven years, Tractor said - his name is John Ferguson but obviously his nickname is Tractor.


Tractor said, he said: “It is so dry in Thargomindah, that I am handfeeding my bees.” Because of course everyone was handfeeding their cattle and sheep and so I think most of us thought he was pulling our leg. But he felt - being a very helpful person and like all of you, very committed to explaining the situation in his local government area to his constituents and everyone else - he did some videos showing exactly how you can handfeed bees. So I commend them to you, they’re on my Facebook page and if ever you're confronted with especially dry conditions and you're a beekeeper, you'll know how to feed your bees so they're as healthy as they are in Thargomindah. Needless to say, Bulloo Shire Council is not a large local government area, but it's got challenges and again it's one where we can work more closely together state, federal and local government.

But that is the key; working more closely together, respecting the roles that we have and making sure that we coordinate. Again, we were talking to Steve Edgington from Barkly Shire about the very real and tragic circumstances we've seen with abuse, violence and other challenges in his local government area. I think Steve's showing great leadership there, but again that is an area where the Territory government, the federal government, local government can well operate more closely together. So, coordination is the key. The City Deals, if you like, are the metropolitan part of that strategy. But as John will no doubt have described to you, it's an approach that we can take to more regional areas, to much smaller local government areas.

We have to recognise that improving the amenity and livability of our communities is of vital importance. It is not an optional extra. The livability of our communities is a vital national economic strength. It really is, in a competitive world, ensuring that wherever you are in Australia people can say: “That's a great place to live. That's somewhere I want to stay. It's somewhere I want to work, somewhere I want to build a business.”

That is important. It's a big competitive advantage and you are at the very heart of that exercise.

So, I just want to say thank you for the work you do. I respect it. I admire it. Above all, you are the closest to the people and we are determined to be your partners in doing an even better job to serve the people you represent.

Thank you very much.



Transcript 41669