President's comment

The Australian Constitution is the principal expression of the laws that make this nation what it is, one of the most admired democracies in the world.

As such, it is important for the Constitution to remain a living, breathing document, which can continue to reflect the social and political progress Australia is making in the world.

It is also important that the Constitution has the capacity to reflect the aspirations of the nation's people and its institutions.

That is why it is essential that the Constitution be amended to recognise the existence of Local Government, the level of government that is closest to the issues with which communities deal every day.

Such a change would be no empty gesture: it will give local councils a rock solid base on which to plan for improving and maintaining the lifestyles and economic futures of their communities.

It will legitimise and make secure the important relationship between the federal and local governments, thereby ensuring the efficient flow of public funds to support programs like Roads to Recovery and various direct community grants.

This relationship was legally challenged in the High Court in 2009, the result being there is now doubt about the Constitutional validity of the Australian Government providing funds for areas where it does not have a specific Constitutional sanction to do so.

In a nutshell, that is what the campaign for constitutional recognition of local government is all about, making sure the financial relationship that guarantees efficient flows of public funds direct to local communities is beyond challenge.

You can see why this change is in the nation's interest and why it is so important that all local Councils in Australia get behind this campaign.

It will reinforce the notion that as long as local communities have the right case to make and a certainty of purpose, then the funds needed to improve their futures should be available.

The change will also ensure Local Governments and the communities they serve are better protected from any the party political machinations that sometimes influence state government agendas.

An expert panel has been convened to advise the Federal Government on the level of support for constitutional recognition of Local Government.

I have the honour of being a member of that panel and contributing to its work, as we move towards the all important national referendum to enshrine local government in the Constitution.

That work has included a round of public consultation in all states and territories.

Referendums set necessarily high hurdles for constitutional change.

Only eight of the 44 that have been put forward since Federation have been carried. I urge all local councils who have not yet done so to indicate your support for the referendum by lodging a submission with the expert panel. While more than 430 councils across Australia have passed resolutions supporting the change, making a submission to the expert panel will help convince the Government that including the Local Government sector in the Constitution is a vital step in the nation's interest.