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Constitutional recognition – key to grass roots democracy

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Since Jeff Kennet amalgamated and restructured local government in Victoria, Victoria’s local councils have become answerable to the state rather than to their municipal ratepayers. In fact, local councils exist at the will of state governments by an act of parliament.

The following ALGA press release brings new hope to local councils and those who support grass roots democracy.

Labor confirms timeframe for constitutional recognitionThe President of the Australian Local Government Association, Cr Paul Bell, said that he was pleased that Federal Labor had outlined a timeframe on constitutional recognition for local government.

Speaking at the Queensland Local Government Association annual conference today, the Shadow Minister for Local Government, Senator Kate Lundy, said Labor would in its first term consult with ALGA and state and territory governments on the process for achieving constitutional recognition, including holding a constitutional convention and determining the timeframe for a referendum.

“Constitutional recognition is a long-cherished goal for local government and what we have learned from recent events in Queensland is that local government will never be treated fairly until it is written into the Constitution,” Cr Bell said.

Cr Bell said that unless local government was able to sit at the table as a fully equal partner with the states, the wishes of local communities would continue to be overridden.”

Cr Bell said that local government delegates would be discussing how to progress the issue of constitutional recognition at the forthcoming National General Assembly in Darwin in November.

“We are very excited that this debate is in the public arena,” Cr Bell said. “But we also recognize we have a lot of work to do. After two unsuccessful referendums on this issue [1975 and 1988], we have to get it right. We must get bipartisan support from both major parties and convince the Australian people to tick ‘yes’ at the ballot box.”

Cr Bell also welcomed Federal Labor’s recognition of the need to strengthen the focus on local government issues at COAG and stated that he looked forward to working further with the Labor Party on its proposal for a Council of Australian Local Governments. Cr Bell noted that the proposed Council could provide a greater opportunity for local government to put its views forward in intergovernmental forums.

Most people still think their local government representatives (councillors) represent the ratepayers when, in reality, they are little more than local representatives of the state government under that act of parliament.

Constitutional recognition is the only way your local councillors can represent local interests.

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Written by Greg Naylor

29 August 2007 at 6:34 pm

Posted in social comment

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