Anne Twomey on the (literally) secret conditions of local government funding

The constitutional scholar Professor Anne Twomey has a great catch in the Conversation today. The press release announcing the referendum and Anthony Albanese’s opinion piece advocating a yes vote mysteriously drops a crucial phrase currently in Section 96 of the Constitution:

the phrase “on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit” had magically disappeared.

Was it a bit of spin by a media adviser who thought it might be clever not to mention that the funding to local government would be tied up by burdensome and intrusive conditions? Or was it simply ignorance?

Read the whole thing here. This is no clerical error – it’s quite significant.

That phrase is the hook upon which all of Canberra’s tied grants hang. Omitting it from the publicity material – intentionally or accidentally – hides the fact that any funding sent from the Commonwealth to local governments is inevitably going to come with conditions and requirements. And those conditions are going to increase Canberra control over councils. As Anne Twomey writes:

A mistake in a press release is one thing, but when the minister repeats the omission in his own opinion piece, then one really has to wonder exactly how much attention has been paid to this proposal and whether the ministers involved really know what they are doing.

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