Jun 20, 2011

Constitutional Recognition of Local Government

I have received an urgent approach from Bill Gillooly AM Secretary General of the Local Government & Shires Association of New South Wales seeking my cooperation in regarding Constitutional Recognition for Local Government.

Mr Gillooly reminded me that the President of the Australian Local Government Association, Cr Genia McCaffery, had written to me requesting that Council pass a resolution in supporting the ALGA’s Constitutional Recognition proposal. He advised that this request was an integral part of Cr McCaffery’s endeavours to secure the full support of all Councils throughout Australia for the proposal.

May I say at the outset that I certainly recognise and appreciate the concept that the third tier of government, Local Government, a democratically elected tier of government, should be given recognition in the Commonwealth Constitution. In fact, I regard such an amendment to the Commonwealth Constitution Act having a significant and possibly far reaching consequences for Local Government and State Governments in Australia.

However, none of the material submitted to me contains the proposed legislation that would need to be considered in an amendment to the Commonwealth Constitution Act. Platitudes such as Constitutional Recognition of Local Government are fine words, however, legislation is required amend the Commonwealth Constitution Act.

I have made this point on a number of occasions at the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Australian Local Government Council, of which I am a member. I am sure I was speaking English and not Swahili when I repeatedly asked to be provided with a draft Bill. Surely with all the resources of the Australian Local Government Association and the New South Wales Local Government & Shire Association, a draft Bill could be prepared that Parliament would have to consider and be put before the Australian people at a referendum.

Before the Council is able to express its opinion in relation to Cr McCaffery’s request, we need to be provided  with a copy of a draft Bill so that the proposed changes to the Constitution can be considered so that Council can indicate either it’s support or otherwise in those amendments. Local Government has to deal with issues of substance, not catch the “spin disease” of the State and Commonwealth jurisdictions.

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