Australia

Constitutional change to recognise local government a step closer

THE President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Cr Geoff Lake, has welcomed the announcement that the Australian Government will fund a $250,000 education campaign to promote a referendum to include local government in the Australian Constitution.

The announcement was made by Minister for Local Government, Anthony Albanese, who opened the 2010 National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra. Whilst not indicating when a referendum on constitutional change would occur, Mr Albanese said the Government would introduce a referendum "when the time is right."

"Local government is excited that the Rudd Government has signalled that, of the various constitutional referenda proposals discussed during its time in government, this is the one it is prepared to put some money towards advancing," Cr Lake said.

The announcement follows a four year campaign by local government to amend the Constitution to fix the uncertainty over whether or not the Federal Government can fund councils directly. Last year, the High Court's Pape decision indicated that the Federal Government lacks constitutional power to fund local government.

"It is in everybody's interests to fix up this funding uncertainty. It is certainly in the interests of state governments and councils, however most significantly, it is in the interests of the millions of Australian ratepayers who deserve to see their funding burden eased by more general taxation revenue flowing to local government," Cr Lake said.

The ALGA has launched a website, <http://www.councilreferendum.com.au/>, to promote constitutional reform and the need for local government to be recognised in the Constitution.

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