Freedom-loving David has once again defeated big government Goliath and their attempt to change the Constitution to give Canberra control of Councils.
Yesterday the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced that the referendum would be deferred because an election would be held on 7 September. According to reports Rudd has said:
“I’ve been a long-term supporter of constitutional recognition for local government, but I think we’re going to have to look at that in the next term.”
Had the plan been successful Canberra would have been able to impose whatever strings they wanted on Council funding. Australia would have been run entirely from Canberra as Councils lost control.
The intention of the government was to sneak the referendum through. But any attempt to increase Canberra’s control over local communities was never going to be accepted lightly. Especially when the ‘yes’ campaign received $20 million of public money to corrupt democracy and buy a change to the Constitution while the ‘no’ case only received $500,000. It’s hard to imagine a more blatant attempt to buy a change to the Constitution by Canberra politicians and bureaucrats.
Constitutionally, voting on the referendum cannot commence earlier than two months since the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) Bill passed both houses of Parliament. With pre-polls starting soon the earliest date the referendum could be put to Australians is on 14 September. The window for the referendum to be held is six months, effectively meaning it will now lapse unless a Rudd or Abbott government propose to hold it separately before the end of the year. That seems extremely unlikely because it would come with a $120 million additional price tag.
What also seems extremely unlikely is that the proposed change will make it through the Parliament with the same level of support next time.
This referendum started with bipartisan support. That has now collapsed. It is unlikely to return as more and more Liberal and National Party MPs spoke out against the referendum and an increase in Canberra’s power. This referendum should not be put to the people again. Both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd should reject making another Canberra play for control of local communities.
The IPA’s role in educating Australians about the consequences of this referendum was incredibly significant and, should it be proposed again, will be repeated.