regarding the recognition of local government by referenda in 2013
idea that we allow the constitutional recognition of local government will face
a host of barriers, when it comes to selling the ideal to we the people,
considering we have said no, twice in the past, 1974 and 1988.
are several ways in which to include local government in our constitution,
financially as the LCA would prefer, and the main aim of local government in
need of financial security, democratic, the hardest sell and as a third tier of
government, an option that would be lost before the first shot is fired, and
one of a symbolic nature.
we tackle the financial security option, section 96 of the constitution could
be amended to read “new words highlighted”
Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State “or to any local government
body” on such terms and conditions as the Parliament sees fit)
issue of terms would still open the door to controlling forces on the freedom
of local government to operate, and may end up a wedge on policy separatism
from Commonwealth and State ideals, in particular when alternate parties are
elected at state and federal level.
go down the path of democratic inclusion, would open the door to mass
speculation and fear, in respect to another over politicised tier of
government, with legislation of state government now empowering local
State governments would have trouble accepting such a shift
as to who controls the local direction of their arena, of particular concern
for the States and Territories would be the retention of the power to dismiss a
local government and appoint an administration in the limited number of cases
where a council is either corrupt or dysfunctional.
situation in itself opens the door to local government falling back on
inclusion in the state constitution rather than the commonwealth, if however a
correlation can be found which protects the state interests, it would be along
the lines of “Each State shall, and each Territory may, provide for the
establishment of, or continuance of a system of local government bodies elected
in accordance with the laws of the State or Territory”
option that relates to constitutional recognition beyond simple matters of
funding, will interfere with the ability for State government to police local
issues, such as the pre-mentioned corruption issues and indeed possibly include
by-laws and the state’s legislative agenda, not to mention the high court may
be forced to throw their hat in the ring regarding any inclusion of local
government in the preamble.
at state constitutional level would allow for greater detail, without fear of
well established grass roots NO Campaigns, but this option is not on the LGA’s
preferred lists, as it is the federal grants they wish to receive direct and
without state government restrictions.
spent many years on the NO side of constitutional recognition, it seems from a
constitutional level that inclusion in section 96 of the Act, would be
acceptable to both voters and the Local council, without impeding on the
separation of powers, or the original intention of the Commonwealth
Constitution Act itself.
government bodies have existed in Australia since the establishment of the
Adelaide Corporation (now the City of Adelaide) in 1840. Across Australia, the 560 odd local
government bodies, promote local interests and deliver important services and
infrastructure at a direct community level.
would be only fair as such, that these bodies received some official
recognition, but to go beyond financial security, I feel too many issues would
need to be addressed, leaving any such sell to possible failure.
councils are already putting aside a rather tidy sum, to sell their chosen
ideal, so let’s hope they stick with change that will this time be acceptable
to the public of Australia this time. Over the past hundred years or so, only 8 out of 44 referenda have been
carried. In Sir Robert Menzies' words, "to get an affirmative vote from
the Australian people on a referendum proposal is one of the labours of Hercules.
only changes we the people have supported in the past, have been based around
state debt in 1910 and 1928, Social services in 1946, Aboriginals in 1967 and in 1977
alterations to the Senate casual vacancies, referendums, the retirement of
judges and our national song.
Commonwealth Parliament formally acknowledged the role of local government in
Australia in 2006,
it did not go as far as recommending constitutional recognition, as they
themselves would be well aware of the issues such a move would face.
could also enhance the ability of local councils to advocate the interests of
their communities through collaboration with other levels of government. It
could thus make a practical difference to local government’s ability to deliver
local services and infrastructure, and to its future development as an integral
part of the Australian Federation.
only other avenue that I believe will be offered up by state government will be
nothing more than symbolic, as they have self interest in retaining full control
of local government agenda and finances, another fact that supports financial
recognition to allow some freedom for local governance.
is however another issue facing local government and that is the ground swell
of opposition to their current use of by-laws, which are written up by state
government and given to the local government bodies to enforce.
would be huge opposition from many political activists to any inclusion that
would further empower councils/shires to write law, and that in itself would
also be a huge imposition on the daily running of councils.
Becoming a third
tier of government would be a huge impost on both the councils and the people,
adding the risk of politicizing local government and with it the usual waste
and cost burden to the local constituents.
simple adding of the words “or to any local government body” to section 96,
seems an acceptable way forward for local government, and will allow direct
funding from commonwealth grants, without interference by state governments
whilst ensuring the present separation of powers remain intact.
candidate and Community activist.