University of Queensland’s constitutional law expert Suri Ratnapala has written an excellent essay on the proposal to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution. Ratnapala gives us seven sound reasons to reject this constitutional change, as:
the referendum will be bad for the Federation, bad for the states, bad for local communities and bad for the national economy…It is an echo of Gough Whitlam’s grand design for regional government directed from Canberra. The supporters of the amendment say that it does not constitutionally guarantee the existence, shape or form of local government bodies but leaves those matters to the judgment of state legislatures. This, as I argue presently, is not true.
The seven reasons? The planned constitutional changes will:
- undermine our federal system of government
- interfere with states’ powers local administration of their own state
- erode the legislative power of the states
- give the Commonwealth power to interfere in state policy
- weaken our current system that ensures that the regulation of the economy is decentralised and in not under the control of any one body
- fail to improve local government (despite contrary claims)
- allow the Commonwealth to subvert the Australian Constitution.
The upcoming referendum is a power grab that undermines the Constitution that has served us well over the past 112 years. It won’t improve local governments, but merely bring them under the direct control of Canberra, sidestepping the most important level of government in the Federation – the states.