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LGA warns Labor not to "stab us in the back" on rate-capping

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The state’s Local Government Association has revealed it spent almost $200,000 campaigning against the Liberals’ plan to cap council rates, denying the money was wasted because “six out of 10 South Australians voted for parties that opposed” the measure.

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The LGA today revealed to members that it spent $174,338 on “campaign activities related to opposing the policy of rate capping”, as part of a $211,800 pre-election spend that also included $37,462 campaigning against Labor’s cost-shifting measures.

LGA CEO Matt Pinnegar said the spend was justified and transparent, despite the campaign being set amid a broader backlash against council profligacy, with the Auditor-General launching an inquiry into the spending of all 68 local authorities in SA.

Pinnegar said the organisation’s role was “to promote and advance the interests of local government”, but that it had determined “not to use member subscriptions in our rate-capping campaign, and all of our state election campaign activities were funded through other revenue.”

“Rate-capping and cost-shifting are the two biggest threats facing South Australian councils,” he said.

“Six out of 10 South Australians voted for parties that opposed rate-capping [but] we were never fighting a party… we’re not Business SA, we’re not the Australian Hotels’ Association – we’re actually a public institution. We can’t and never will be party political.

“We campaigned on a policy, and I think the outcomes are pretty good.”

Despite the Liberals – the only party pushing a rate-capping agenda – securing government, the LGA believes the matter is yet to be settled, with the Greens and SA Best still set to oppose the measure in the Upper House.

That puts the onus on Labor, which is conducting a broad policy review and is yet to re-state its opposition to the measure.

A spokesman told InDaily the party “is currently reviewing its rate-capping policy and we have an open mind”.

“We need to see the specific detail of exactly what the Liberals are proposing,” he said.

Pinnegar said it would a betrayal if Labor changed its pre-election position on rate-capping.

“Our view is that the Libs are stabbing us in the front – Labor would be stabbing us in the back,” he said.

“The Labor Party needs to put its money where its mouth is – it went to the election opposing rate-capping [so] their purported mandate to oppose the deregulation of shopping hours should also apply to rate-capping… for them to renege on a commitment that they, made months after an election, I think would be poor.”

He didn’t rule out spending further funds campaigning on the issue, but said “that’s a matter for the board”.

“Our view is this is in the realm of the parliament now,” he said, adding the LGA’s focus has now shifted to the forthcoming local government elections.

But he didn’t resile from the campaign expenditure, which covered metro and regional radio, digital platforms (including InDaily), social media and regional press.

“That’s our job – it’s in the legislation – and I think it’s a modest amount of money that’s had a significant impact of raising awareness about what local government does and the challenges it faces,” he said.

“We can no longer be in a position where people don’t know what services we provide… we’re really focussed on people knowing what they’re getting for their four per cent of taxes.

“We’re always prudent with our expenditure and all our expenditure is board-endorsed and public.”

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