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Quick action needed to secure referendum on local govt recognition

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 7 Mar 2013

With a parliamentary inquiry report recommending a referendum to recognise local government in the constitution at the September election, Australian Greens local government spokesperson and committee member Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on the Gillard government to introduce required legislation soon after parliament resumes next week.

The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government report this afternoon recommended a referendum at the next election to recognise local councils in the constitution and allow the federal government to directly fund them. 

"Two expert committees have now found in favour of a referendum. The Labor government must move quickly to pass legislation between March and July facilitating the referendum and allowing time to build strong community and cross party support," Senator Rhiannon said.

"If the government drags the chain it will rob the campaign of time to educate the community about the importance of constitutional reform to allow the federal government to fund local councils.

"Two High Court cases have created uncertainty around federal grants to local councils.

"This referendum should receive active support from all political parties, state governments and local councils across the nation.

"Referendums are notoriously difficult to pass, with voters approving eight out of 44 proposals to alter the constitution, so it is important campaigning gets going as soon as possible.

"Today's report reveals a big appetite from local councils for reform and strong capacity to campaign. The Gillard government must lead the way in securing this important change.

"The Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 sets out the referendum process. This includes passing a bill setting out the proposed alteration to the Constitution, establishing ‘yes' and ‘no' committees of MPs to prepare a case supporting their position and the Government-General issuing writs," Senator Rhiannon said.

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