Mrs McARTHUR: My question is to the Minister for Local Government and relates to the revelations in today’s Geelong Advertiser that a bungled Fines Victoria system has cost the City of Greater Geelong about $650 000 in just 18 months, with the council owed about $8 million in unrecovered fines. Minister, what action have you taken, or do you propose to take, to protect the revenue base of the City of Greater Geelong and other councils impacted by this Fines Victoria debacle?

Mr SOMYUREK (Minister for Local Government, Minister for Small Business): I think it is probably an apt description to call it a Fines Victoria debacle, because it is a bit of a debacle, but responsibility for that debacle does not sit within the local government minister’s purview. Yes, local government revenue is affected by this bungle, and I would expect that to be fixed, because local government revenue is a big thing. Local governments provide key infrastructure and maintenance, and they provide key local services to their communities, so we should be making sure that our local governments are not victims of bungles by government agencies and that their revenue base is maintained. 

Mrs McARTHUR:  I thank the minister for his answer, but as the Minister for Local Government, can he assure the house that councils impacted by Fines Victoria in this debacle, including the City of Greater Geelong, have not cut their services or lifted their rates higher than otherwise would have been required without this debacle?

Mr SOMYUREK: If I can just say the debacle and the bungle is a matter for the Attorney General; it clearly sits within her portfolio. Council operational matters, their funding and the way they raise rates or in fact whether they have got a legal claim against government agencies, departments or any other enterprise are clearly matters for council. They are sophisticated, large organisations that have access to legal advice, and I am sure they have been receiving that legal advice, which I am not privy to. In terms of the other part of your question and whether that has affected the rates cap, if Geelong council think that they have a case for raising the cap, they ought to make an application to the Essential Services Commission, where a panel of experts will give due consideration to whether the cap should be lifted.

18 June 2019