More objections to local government constitutional recognition

A pattern seems to be clearly emerging with regard to the Gillard government’s proposal to financially recognise local government in the Australian Constitution.

That is, the more you look into the proposal the less you’re going to like it.

In today’s newspapers, two prominent former federal politicians – Peter Reith and Gary Johns – have raised doubts about the merits of the referendum proposal.

Reith warns that ‘the proposal will not only increase commonwealth power but executive power,’ and states that ‘federal government conditions [attached to grant funding] will mean that federal bureaucrats will be running the show, not councils.’

Johns helpfully reminds us of the constitutional reality that ‘state government owns all local governments,’ and the referendum proposal will compromise the effectiveness of state oversight over their councils. He then explains that ‘recognising local government will tilt the [constitutional] balance in favour of the commonwealth, not local government.’

What is significant is that these pieces come from former federal politicians from both sides of the political aisle, with one (Peter Reith) also a former shire president of Phillip Island Council in southern Victoria.

When former political protagonists from each of the major parties says ‘no’ to Canberra in every town hall, it surely adds even more weight to the argument against the government’s latest centralist plan.


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