The federal Minister for Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, Anthony Albanese, has announced that the government would provide up to $10.5 million in funding to proponents of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases on the referendum proposal for local government constitutional recognition.
But if anyone is given the impression that the government has now conceded an equitable public funding split to ensure a level playing field for both sides of the referendum debate, they should think again.
In arguably the most notable example of ‘mean and tricky’ politics of recent years, the Gillard government has decided to advance $10 million to the Australian Local Government Association, so that it can promote the ‘yes’ case.
By contrast, the government will provide just $500,000 for proponents of the ‘no’ case.
Yes, you’ve it read correctly, $10.0 million for the ‘yes’ case, and $0.5 million for ‘no’.
The cynically good graces of this government to throw some crumbs to the ‘no’ case was, apparently, determined on the basis that federal members of parliament voted 134 to two in favour of the local government referendum proposal.
Given that the carriage of the referendum proposal would further centralise power in the hands of Canberra politicians and bureaucrats, the public funding distribution is not only clearly disproportionate but is fundamentally undemocratic in its implications.