Local councils will continue to push to be made full members of the federal cabinet, warning that being invited to one meeting a year falls short of Labor’s commitment.
Linda Scott, president of the Australian Local Government Association, welcomed the foot in the door given to the third-tier government at Friday’s national cabinet meeting. Still, she said it “will not consider [Labor’s] commitment to have been delivered until ALGA is a full voting member at all national cabinet meetings”.
Before the election Labor accused Scott Morrison of having “kicked local government to the curb when he replaced [the Council of Australian Governments] with the national cabinet”.
Labor’s policy said local government played an “important part” in Coag, but the Liberals had pushed local government “to the kiddie’s table” by not including them on the federal cabinet.
“In addition to re-establishing the Australian Council of Local Government, Labor is also committed to putting the local government on the national cabinet.”
But at the press conference on Friday, Albanese revealed that local government would be represented at just one national cabinet meeting a year despite national cabinet meeting at least four times a year.
Albanese said the local government would come to “a future meeting of the national cabinet and the treasury body once a year so all levels of government can be involved”.
Under Scott Morrison local council was invited once a year to the national federation reform council, which included the federal cabinet and the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) members.
Scott, a Labor councilor on the City of Sydney council, said the ALGA welcomed “the appointment of local government to the national cabinet and are pleased that it will now dedicate one of its four annual meetings to local government matters”, along with the CFFR.
Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning
Scott said that before the election, the local government had been “pleased to secure” a commitment from Albanese for representation on the federal cabinet.
“However, we will not consider this commitment to have been delivered until ALGA is a full voting member at all national cabinet meetings.
“ALGA will take the opportunity to place its full voting membership on the agenda of the first national cabinet meeting we attend to ensure we can attend all meetings as a full voting member in the future.”
Scott said local government should also be a full voting member of CFFR and participate in ministerial councils, including climate change, energy, and housing.
“While local governments are always the quiet achievers in our federation, we deliver. Without a local government voice in the governance of Australia’s federation, our communities risk being left behind.”
Scott said the local government wanted to “secure fair funding that will ensure the financial sustainability of every council and community” through the federal cabinet.
The stoush over the inclusion of local councils comes after Albanese backtracked on his previous strident criticism of national cabinet secrecy and refused to answer questions about why he had done so.
On Friday, Albanese confirmed the commonwealth had not proposed ending the practice, despite his accusation that Morrison was “obsessed with secrecy”.
In opposition, the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said Labor’s position was that the federal cabinet was “never subject to cabinet-in-confidence rules for FOI requests, and we would adhere to this in office”.
Asked if he had proposed ending the national cabinet secret ad, the hat had changed from his earlier criticism, Albanese replied “no”, refusing to answer the second half of the question about why it had not raised the issue.