Laureate Professor Cheryl Saunders AO of Melbourne Law School recommends that “we should think again” before recognizing local government in the Constitution. The proposed $50 million referendum to include local government in the Constitution is fast proving to be a rushed and rash decision by the Gillard government. The inclusion of local government, far from ‘cutting out the middle man‘, will add to costs and confusion over the role of the states. As Professor Saunders argues ‘commonwealth regulation through spending is bad enough in application to the states.’ At least there are only 8 states and territories though; imagine how out of control things could get with the Commonwealth trying to deal with 560 local councils!
This is not constitutional recognition of local government. Constitutional recognition is about dignity. There is nothing dignified about receiving conditional grants under these kinds of arrangements.