Last night, Federal Members of Parliament voted 134 to 2 to change the Constitution to recognise local government.
This is a strong endorsement of the proposed amendment and reflects the bipartisan support the referendum has at the Federal level.
The amendment would add 17 words to our almost 12,000-word long Constitution and alter Section 96 to read:
96 Financial assistance to States and local government bodies
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or to any local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The passage of the legislation is the culmination of work done by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, led by the Hon James Spigelman AC, QC and the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee and follows strong advocacy by local governments across Australia.
It is a small but important change that reflects the fact that the Commonwealth has partnered with local governments to deliver local roads, sporting fields, libraries, child care and community services.
Together we have delivered programs like Roads to Recovery which has enabled upgrade and repair work to take place at 16,000 road sites across the country.
The change will not diminish the role of the States with regard to the administration of local government. Recognition in the Constitution does not alter the fact that local governments are created by and are accountable to State Governments.
The Government encourages Australians to support including local government in our nation’s Constitution and to SAY YES on 14 September.