It is time for concerted action on Constitutional recognition of Local Government. In April 2009, the High Court rejected an appeal by Bryan Pape concerning the validity of economic stimulus grants. Although dismissed, this case threw doubt on the ability of the Commonwealth Government to fund Local Government directly. The case brought into sharp focus the precarious nature of Local Government and the imperative for Constitutional recognition.
Action by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and the State and Territory Associations has started, and they are now calling on every Local Government across the nation to play their role.
It seems clear that there is general support across the political spectrum for this necessary Constitutional reform.From our past history of referenda proposals, without this bipartisan support, the prospect for success is greatly diminished, if not doomed.
The referendum looks likely to be combined with an Indigenous proposal which all political parties have advocated.
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has received (as of 9 July) 355 resolutions from councils in support of Constitutional recognition of Local Government. This equates to 54 per cent of all councils across Australia. It now wants all councils on board as soon as possible.
Coupled with years of planning, ALGA is prepared for a big push to support all Councils in their campaigns.
The recent announcement by Minister Crean that an expert panel will be established to drive this initiative has also been welcomed by ALGA. This is a good start, but every Local Government must take up the challenge of lobbying their local State and Federal MPs to ensure everyone is on the same page in regard to constitutional recognition.
Along with bipartisan support, community support is of course paramount.
Australia has a long history of rejecting referendums and councils need to ensure their local residents understand the logic and the necessity of this change to our Constitution.
Local Governments right across the nation must begin to work now to secure community support for this measure. The referendum is due in 2013, and if Local Government is serious about the measure and shoring up their ongoing financial security to deliver for their communities, it must start now.