A proposed referendum on “Constitutional Recognition Of Local Government” (to be part of the next Federal Election) was supported by the majority of Liverpool City Councillors on 29th of May 2013. As the only Councillor to vote against the recommendation I based my decision on research which indicates there are distinct risks associated with allowing Federal Politicians direct funding or “control” of Local Government. It should be remembered that this was attempted twice before, once by the Whitlam Government in May 1974 and again by the Hawke Government in 1988.
In my opinion there is little if any advantage in the proposed change. The primary reason given that the Federal Government is unable to fund Local Government is incorrect. Australia wide, Local Government has received almost $2.2B with NSW receiving $660M during the 2012-2013 financial term. The Federal Government has been able to fund Local Government as per section 96 of the Federal Constitution, but in effect only via the State Government.
Australia wide, Local Governments exist under each State Governments’ Constitution and have done so as early as 1979. NSW amended its “NSW State Constitution Act of 1902” in 1986 to incorporate recognition of Local Government. There is no need for Federal recognition as well, it could be argued that such a move undermines State Government Legislative powers.
Several State Governments including NSW, Victoria and Western Australia are against the changes while Queensland has suggested amendments and Tasmania has not indicated a preference.
On reflection, had the Federal Government directed its stimulus packages which included; Home insulation, Solar Energy rebate schemes and Educational Reform initiatives by providing that funding to State Governments, it is arguable that far better outcomes would have been achieved instead of the highly controversial results that occurred.
For further information and differing points of view follow the links below: