Plebiscites also declared for NT

In September, the Federal Parliament passed legislation overriding Queensland laws on Council referendums. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will run plebiscites for 85 Councils that have officially indicated their desire to do so. With the calling of the Federal Election these plebiscites have now take place in December.

On 17 October, Prime Minister John Howard announced that the Federal Government will also offer similar plebiscites for communities in the Northern Territory, where its reform process proposes that some 63 Local Government bodies will be amalgamated into 13 Councils by July 2008.

“During my recent visit to the Northern Territory, I was approached by several business and community groups expressing concern about the Territory Government’s proposed local Council reforms,” the Prime Minister said. “These groups expressed a view that stakeholder consultation and engagement in the reform process had not been adequate.

“Given the concerns and the importance of these reforms in driving efficiency and improving the delivery of services on the ground, I believe it is essential for community and business interests to have their say. As such, I propose to offer plebiscites on the Local Government reform proposals to those communities that want one. These would be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission and funded by the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth Government has expressed in principle support for the broad direction of these reforms as they aim to deliver economies of scale, increased efficiencies and improved municipal services, including in remote communities. The Commonwealth has provided funding for 12 coordination officers to support these goals in key sites in the Northern Territory. I have also sought an assurance from the Chief Minister that the Territory Government will use the reform of Local Government to normalise the delivery of municipal services in remote communities and to create real jobs for Indigenous people from these communities.

“The delivery of Local Government services provides a significant opportunity for employing Indigenous people from the communities involved in the Commonwealth Government’s NT National Emergency Response.”