This question came from a council we assisted in the drought round of BBRF4. The question arose from concern that nearby councils had been rung by the Department to say that they had been unsuccessful, and yet the council that called me hadn’t heard anything. I advised that this may, or may not be, a good thing.
There are many variables that determine how announcements are made, both State and Australian Government. In order of priority, the first is media, the second is media and the third is media. But not all media is good and sometimes hiding an announcement is the objective.
With timing, the only people who know when an announcement is to be made are the Minister’s media advisors. When Colin worked inside different governments, he had to manage grants which were fully assessed and ready, and media advisors held up the announcement for up to 6 months or more waiting for the right moment.
With how, this depends on if the media advisors want to hide the announcement or get it on the front page. To hide it, the entire list can be announced during another event, such as budget night or on a Friday afternoon during another crisis. BBRF1 was announced on budget night. To get on the front page, which we suspect may happen with BBRF4, takes us back to the original question. For front page, Governments don’t release a list, instead they get the Department to quietly tell the unsuccessful applicants first. This is followed by the local member, or state senator of the right party, telling the council in confidence and then holding a grand press conference on the site during a slow news day. There are a thousand variations, but that’s the general theme. As for your carefully prepared project schedule, tenders and resource planning, well, it’s all about media.
Q. Do you have a story about media advisors?
Colin has many. Having worked directly to a NSW Premier for 6 years and 10 years in the Australian Government on grant funding, there are many stories. But let’s talk about toilets. True story from an unnamed Minister’s media advisor from an unnamed government a while ago. Colin was in a team designing an infrastructure grant program for local government and we had a visit from the media advisor to go through what we wanted to fund. Yep you guessed it, the media advisor made us remove standalone toilets from the grant program, even though that’s what so many councils needed funding for. The reason, the advisor said that they did not want to have the only media event available for the Minister as one where they could declare the toilet open. The public servants won though, we crafted the guidelines to hide the toilets in projects as ‘park upgrades and tourist facilities’. Behind the scene activities in the depths of Canberra that you don’t see.
Q. What’s COAG? Why was it abolished and how will this impact grant funding for local government?
On 29th May the Prime Minister said:
“COAG is no more. It will be replaced by a completely new system and that new system is focused on the success that has been yielded by the operation of the National Cabinet.
The National Cabinet will be driven by a singular agenda, and that is to create jobs. It will have a job-making agenda. And the National Cabinet will drive the reform process between state and federal cooperation to drive jobs.
The National Cabinet will work together with what is known as the Council on Federal Financial Relations, that is basically the meeting of Treasurers. Those treasurers will take responsibility for all of the funding agreements between the states and the Commonwealth”. https://www.pm.gov.au/media
To explain, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was the annual gathering of Premiers, Chief Ministers and Prime Minister to discuss money and policy. It included the Australian Local Government Association. Essentially the new process is the same as the old, just more often and streamlined. The Local Government Association has been dropped as well. Some lobbying is required I would suggest, to get a seat back at the table.
The reason that they need to get together hasn’t changed. In very simple terms Australia is a Federation, the vast majority of spending items such as health and education are State and Territory responsibilities. The Australian Constitution, as it is written, provides income tax powers to each individual government to pay for these costly items. But in 1942, income taxation was consolidated by the federal government to increase revenue as a war-time measure. As a result, the states’ tax base was reduced, replaced by Federal government grants. The Australian Government took the money but did not take the responsibility. Which is why we need these meetings.
Impact on local government grants is unlikely, as most grants sit outside the formal funding process. That is a whole blog in itself. If you want to read more on the history go to:
Q. Is it reporting season?
Yes. Milestone and financial reports are more than likely due. If you are unable to meet the milestones, tell the Department, even with a short preliminary email to start with until you get the chance to prepare a request for variation. Just about everyone is in the same position, and the Department is understanding, so just keep the communication lines open. A gentle reminder on why this is so important. Section51 completed and submitted an application last week for a council for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Grant Program. Hidden away in the application spreadsheet were these words ‘If you have not completed and submitted a Post Completion Report for a Round 4 Project, please explain why this has not occurred and why this largess will not occur with this project?’ ‘Largess’, that’s a new one for our grant’s vocabulary list.
Q. We were promised money during the crisis from the local member. How do we get it?
We don’t know. That was our honest answer for a question that Section51 was asked this week by a council. Depends on how real the promise was, the source of the potential funds, did you get the promise in writing and many more questions. Local members don’t have real money themselves. Sometimes they have small grant funds but most government money sits in Departmental programs, even during bushfire, drought and COVID 19. Local members cannot just hand out free money with a promise. We are undertaking a forensic review for the council to find out more.
Q. What’s happening to tourism funding?
The campaigns to travel within your state or NT are underway. The entire ACT population is heading to the NSW south coast or wine districts like Orange this weekend, in a social distancing type of way, so we don’t count. Here are two of a number of campaigns.
A new tourism campaign was launched today designed to tantalise the senses of South Australians and get them back out into the regions following a long period of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Steven Marshall said the $1.5 million ‘Welcome Back’ campaign signals the start of a major recovery phase for regional communities.
The NSW Government will launch a multi-million-dollar COVID-19 recovery tourism campaign just in time for the Queen's Birthday long weekend to target holidaymakers who would usually spend up big overseas. "NSW residents took almost 2 million international leisure trips last year … so there is a huge opportunity to entice our overseas holidaymakers to become NSW's next top travellers," Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said.
Your council and region is included within the state campaigns but watch this space for more local tourism funding opportunities. In the interim, we suggest supporting your nearby regions, cafes and wineries and they will support you. It’s great to be in Australia.
What are this week’s 3x3?
3 things to do this week:
3 things to do over the next 3 weeks:
3 things to do over the next 3 months:
Section51 has extensive experience in preparing milestone, final reports and variations. We can take the pressure off you in the lead up to the end of the financial year when you have so many tasks in opening up for business.