PRESIDENT of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Felicity-ann Lewis has called on the Australian Government to establish a Parliamentary Committee as the next step towards a referendum on the constitutional recognition of local government.
Cr Lewis, who was this month selected as President of the ALGA following the resignation of Genia McCaffery, said the only way to protect direct federal funding for community services and infrastructure is to have local government recognised in the Australian Constitution.
"We are keen to work with the Commonwealth on putting in place the conditions for a successful referendum," Cr Lewis said.
At a meeting with Cr Lewis last month, Local Government Minster Simon Crean said the government would consider establishing a Parliamentary Committee based on a proposal put forward by the ALGA Board for progressing the issue of constitutional recognition.
In coming to office, Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to a referendum on constitutional recognition of local government, making agreements with the Greens and Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie.
The government has previously said it is committed to holding a national referendum on the issue during the term of the current government or at the next election.
"I have written to each political party, including the Independents, asking them to support ALGA's proposed way forward on constitutional recognition of local government, including a Parliamentary Committee" Cr Lewis said.
ALGA is seeking an amendment of Section 96 of the Constitution so that it would read: "Parliament may grant financial assistance to any state or local government body formed by or under a law of a state or territory on such terms and conditions as the Parliament sees fit."
"As part of our proposal, we are also seeking a federally funded community awareness program that educates the public regarding the Constitution, constitutional change and the local government question," Cr Lewis said.
"ALGA acknowledges the need for support from all sides of politics to ensure maximum success for a referendum proposal and we are seeking to ensure that all parties support direct funding of local government and have firm commitments to promote the sustainability of local government."