Greens Senator and local government spokesperson Lee Rhiannon today called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to express clear support for recognition of local government in the Constitution, or risk the proposal being defeated by voters in a referendum as happened when the Liberal Party opposed the idea in 1974 and 1988 (‘Constitutional call over councils’).
A referendum on local government recognition in the Australian Constitution was part of the Greens’ agreement with the Government signed in September 2010.
“A discussion paper released yesterday is an important step towards acknowledging the importance of this first tier of government in our democracy and councils’ right to access federal funding, Senator Rhiannon said.
“History shows that to be successful referenda need bipartisan backing. To date Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has only provided ‘in principle’ support. It’s time Mr Abbott came out and backed the plan.
“A long shadow hangs over the right of local government to receive direct grants from the federal government, following the 2009 Pape High Court decision.
“Driving the message home to Australian voters that they should vote ‘yes’ to ensure local government recognition requires bipartisan support at both state and federal levels.
“This year the Greens are celebrating 20 years in local government and our party, with its network of over 100 local councillors, will be working hard to support the ‘Yes’ campaign.
“There can be vibrancy and community connection at the local council level which is often missing at other tiers of government.
“This proposal will help deliver democratically run, well-funded councils which can deliver much needed services for local residents, Senator Rhiannon said.