Mar 23, 2011

Local Government and International Affairs

Loath as I am to get involved in the affairs of other local councils, I do feel, however, that the involvement of local government in international affairs, unless one is cautious and informed can be seen to be inappropriate. To do otherwise leaves local councils open to accusations of taking actions as far from its core responsibility as possible.  Our core responsibility as local government is usually just that – government within a local context.

Keeping streets clean, picking up the garbage, oversighting local planning, providing parks and recreation area, looking after the very young and the elderly and those in between – these are the responsibilities of local government. I have no problem in local government keeping a voice in the affairs and directions of the tiers of government allegedly above us – state and national.  

Going beyond the national government and into the affairs and decisions of foreign government can be seen to be way beyond the remit and purview of local government. We can, as individuals, have our own opinions on the actions and directions of foreign governments but we should not take local government down that path, unless we are informed.  We have a responsibility to our local communities on local affairs – not usually international affairs.

We have a responsible and recognised voice in those two other tiers of government, but generally on issues and matters that relate to our local communities.  There have been notable exceptions; such as the positions council’s around the world took on apartheid and climate change. Those positions drove much of the international sentiment at the time.  Those views were right, informed and residents from cities around the world gave support, for example, in the anti apartheid position of national governments that overcame their economic considerations.  Something similar is yet to happen with climate change.

However, I feel that the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel that has been initiated by Marrickville Council is out of place in the confines of local government. The same can be said for the same Council’s views on the Peoples’ Republic of China and Tibet.

A boycott of things Israeli and, perhaps, Chinese by the good Council at Marrickville is symbolism at its worst. It is uninformed and ineffectual symbolism. Such symbolism has no place in local government.

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