Editorial

John Campbell, President of the Australian Local Government Association, has every right to be incensed when other spheres of government use the excuse that because Local Government is not mentioned in the Australian Constitution it has no place on various intergovernmental bodies.

When a duly elected sphere of government and the local communities they represent are disregarded, this not only flies in the face of the very essence of our democratic system, it defies commonsense. That Local Government has not been invited to be part of the intergovernmental group working to implement Greenhouse gas reduction must take the cake for 'thinking globally but ignoring locally'!

The perennial issue of Constitutional Recognition for Local Government, emanating in denied participation and reduced cooperation, continues to undermine good governance and public policy making in this nation. The opportunity presented through next month's Constitutional Convention for discussion of wider issues, beyond that of Head of State, must not be missed.

Recent moves by various State and Territory Governments trampling on the rights of Councils and their communities adds further fuel to the argument that Local Government's place in our system of governance must be fully protected via our Constitution.

The Northern Territory Government's recent legislation removing Local Government for the 1,000 residents in the Town of Yulara has, unless repealed, permanently deprived these Australians of their right to government by local people for local people.

Similarly, actions and threats by the Victorian Government concerning the removal of elected representatives from some Councils temporarily tramples on the very same right we should all take for granted.

Following the highly disputed sacking of Councillors at the City of Darebin last year, it was suggested by Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Ivan Deveson, that a Code of Good Governance be developed to assist Councils in resolving disputes that may arise.

The Victorian Local Governance Association and Municipal Association of Victoria formed a working party to develop the Code. Launched late last year, the Code is described by Councillor Liana Thompson, President VLGA, as a document symbolising Local Government's determination to manage its own affairs.

Based on accountability, leadership, community responsiveness and relationships, the Code deals with dispute resolution through peer conciliation and mediation with a commitment by all parties to achieve positive outcomes.

Described by Ivan Deveson as 'a small book but a big step towards the main game to ensure our performance is what people want', the Code is designed as a living document to be amended in light of experience through regular review.

Its resolution process through the use of Good Governance Panels, comprising one nominee of the MAV President, one of the VLGA President and a third agreed by both, is designed to remove the uncertainty, once and for all, of Councils being sacked by the mere wave of a hand by another sphere of Government.

Expanding this into a national code is well worth consideration. However, ultimate protection must come through Constitutional Recognition. Demonstrating good governance through such a code will certainly help improve the status and importance of Local Government in people's eyes, a vital ingredient when this question is put to referenda.