Australians, rightly in my view, have previously rejected constitutional recognition for local government at referendums in 1988 and 1974 (see this Parliamentary Library paper), but unfortunately the issue keeps coming back, as reported by the Australian this morning:
AN expert panel has ignored warnings from John Howard and recommended a referendum be held in 2013 canvassing recognition of local governments in the Constitution to ensure they can receive direct commonwealth funding.
The recommendation to proceed with a third attempt to recognise the third tier of government in the nation’s guiding document was last night welcomed by Australian Local Government Association president Genia McCaffery, who said financial security through recognition of local councils in the Constitution was necessary for their survival.
The referendum is likely to be met by fierce opposition from some state governments concerned the move would diminish their powers. Western Australia has warned it will actively campaign against financial recognition in the Constitution of local government.
The referendum could also spark broader fears about the unintended legal consequences stemming from High Court interpretations.
I expect Australian voters will again reject any push for constitutional recognition of local government. I suspect that Australians would be worried about local government politicians getting puffed up as a result of constitutional recognition and granting themselves massive pay rises.
Personally I’m against constitutional recognition because Australia is over-governed and constitutional recognition of local government would entrench three levels of government in Australia, when ideally we should move to two levels of government – i.e. a federal government and regional governments (larger and more efficient than current local governments and more nimble and responsive than current State governments).
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