09 May, 2013

Saying ‘yes’  on constitutional recognition will offer funding security for local c

City of Adelaide Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood has praised the announcement by Prime Minister, Julia Gillard of a 14th September referendum to bring about recognition of Local Government in the Australian Constitution.

“When Australians go to the polls in September, they will also have the chance to say ‘yes’ in a referendum that’s all about protecting important Federal funding that reaches people on the ground, right here in our local communities,” Stephen said.

“In practical terms, we’re talking about Federal funds that help construct safer local roads, deliver real financial support for our local sporting clubs, that make our community centres more energy efficient and provide improvements to key facilities like libraries for our kids,” he said.

“The idea of a referendum on constitutional recognition for Local Government might sound complex, but in simple terms what we are asking people to say ‘yes’ to is formalising an arrangement for the Federal Government to directly fund local councils and protect key outcomes delivered to our communities,” he added.

President of the Local Government Association and Mayor of the City of Prospect, David O’Loughlin, highlighted the importance of the referendum question succeeding on the 14th September.

“Saying ‘yes’ at the referendum will give your local council the certainty it needs to unquestionably receive funding through Federal programs like Roads to Recovery and the Regional & Local Community Infrastructure Program without the risk of High Court challenge, which has happened recently,” he said.

There have been two recent High Court decisions that have fundamentally questioned the power of the Commonwealth to provide direct funding to local councils, funding that has been in place ever since the Roads to Recovery program was initiated by the Howard Government.

“Tony Abbott supports this, Barnaby Joyce supports it, Christine Milne supports it, the Independents support it and so does the Government. If it was your road or your kid's sporting club or your new library at risk, you'd support it too. And you should, because that is exactly what’s at risk," Mayor O’Loughlin added.

Felicity-ann Lewis, Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) President and Mayor of the City of Marion points out that saying ‘yes’ at the referendum will not change the legislative relationship that exists between the State and Local Governments.

“Councils will remain in the legislative jurisdiction of the State Governments and what’s proposed as part of the referendum question makes this very clear. This is not about watering down the State’s powers in relation to councils,” Ms Lewis said.

“It’s also important to note this referendum question is about removing uncertainty for critical funding for local infrastructure and services that we all use and enjoy in our local suburb,” she added.

“ALGA research shows that more than 50 per cent of the Australian population is supportive of constitutional recognition of councils, which means we have a substantial base of community support to build on in the lead up to the referendum,” she said.

Final recommendations of both the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government and the Federal Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government supported and endorsed a 2013 constitutional recognition referendum.

The referendum proposal and referendum funding legislation will be debated in Parliament next week.