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Labor set to kill off major Marshall election pledge

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One of the Marshall Government’s signature ‘cost-of-living’ reforms – a bill to impose rate-capping on councils – appears dead in the water, with the Labor Party poised to confirm it will oppose the legislation – likely as early as tomorrow, InDaily understands.

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Instead, the Peter Malinauskas-led Opposition is expected to outline a new policy agenda of its own, designed to rein in local government costs and make the sector more accountable – in a bid to avoid being painted by the Liberals as a barrier to reform.

InDaily understands the ALP position was formalised at a caucus meeting yesterday and followed a series of meetings with Upper House crossbenchers. The Greens and SA Best have already reconfirmed their own opposition to the bill, making Labor’s decision crucial to the passage of one of the Liberal Government’s signature reforms.

The move will mean the still-fledgling Liberal Government will be unable to pass two of its most longstanding election pledges, with rate-capping and shop trading deregulation both doomed to fail in the Upper House.

Labor’s Local Government spokesman Tony Piccolo refused to confirm the party’s position, telling InDaily: “All I can tell you is we’ll be making an announcement in time for the [parliamentary] sitting next week.”

InDaily understands Labor will effectively back the position of the Local Government Association, which came out strongly against the Liberal legislation after a special board meeting held earlier this month.

But the Opposition, wary of being painted into a corner politically by blocking the measure, is set to unveil a suite of its own sector reforms, which are likely to garner crossbench support.

These could include the creation of a ‘Local Government Commission’ – a centrepiece of SA Best’s own policy platform – which would have oversight for accountability of elected representatives.

It’s expected the ALP policy agenda will address a host of areas that have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, including transparency in spending, including executive salaries and perks such as council credit cards and overseas travel.

The Liberal policy was given impetus by ongoing scandals at Onkaparinga council, which ultimately prompted mayor Lorraine Rosenberg to step down as LGA president. She has since opted not to recontest her role as mayor at this year’s council election.

It’s understood Labor’s proposals will address issues arising from these controversies, as well as broader measures the Opposition can sell as designed to bring down council rates.

Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll did not comment today.

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