May 16, 2013

Release of Draft Constitutional Amendment to Recognise Local Government

The Federal Government is today releasing for public comment the proposed words to give financial recognition to local government in our nation’s Constitution.

We are releasing the proposed amendment to the Constitution as part of the draft bill and explanatory memorandum.

The amendment proposed will add only 17 words to our almost 12,000-word long Constitution.

This small but important change is about recognising modern reality.

It is a practical change to reflect the fact that the Commonwealth has partnered with local governments to deliver local roads, sporting fields, libraries, child care and community services and much more.

The amendment is based on the wording suggested by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, led by the Hon James Spigelman AC QC, and subsequently endorsed by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee.

Both the amendment and the explanatory memorandum take into account recent comments by the states and territories and make it crystal clear that local government is a creation of the states.

The 17 words proposed are as follows:

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. 

The proposed words do not diminish the role of the States with regard to the administration of local government.

Recognising local government in the Constitution will acknowledge the delivery of programs like Roads to Recovery, which has enabled the Commonwealth to work with local governments and communities to upgrade and repair 16,000 road sites across the country.

The Government has provided the draft bill and proposed words to State Premiers and Chief Ministers as well as the Federal Opposition.

The Government invites community feedback on the proposed words and welcomes bipartisan support for this important change.

The Government expects to introduce the bill in the next sitting fortnight.

The draft bill is available at: http://regional.gov.au/local/crlg/bill