May 9, 2013

Referendum on Local Government Recognition

The Australian Government is planning to hold a referendum on 14 September to ask Australians to financially recognise local government in our nation’s Constitution.

We are asking the Australian people to support a small but important change to our Constitution so that the existing practice of Federal Government support for local communities is formally recognised in our Constitution.

This delivers on a long-standing Labor commitment.

Our Constitution, which was drafted more than 100 years ago, says nothing about the role of local government and yet most Australians have daily contact with the services provided by their local council, through childcare, sporting fields, swimming pools, libraries, local roads and more.

Many of these council services are provided in partnership with the Federal Government – something that has been common practice for decades.

In just the last five years, the Commonwealth has partnered with local government to deliver over 6,000 community projects such as libraries, indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, pools, walking trails, roads and bridges, in every single community.

This is in addition to the repair and upgrade work that’s taken place at 16,000 road sites across the country under the Roads to Recovery program.

We are proposing a modest and common sense change to our Constitution that simply reflects the modern reality in our local communities.

This is about saying ‘yes’ to retaining important community benefits. This is about saying ‘yes’ to our communities.

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 modest change we are putting forward to the Australian people is based on advice that the Government has received from the Expert Panel led by the Hon. James Spigelman AC QC and endorsed by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee.

This proposal to change the Constitution is one that the Government expects will receive broad and bipartisan support in the Federal Parliament and across the country.

The draft legislation and the proposed words will be released shortly.