Last week the new Local Government Minster, Warren Truss, declared the abandoned local government referendum that would have led to Canberra controlling Councils was officially dead. According to the speech:
“after the bad taste left in everyone’s mouths, now is not the time to raise the referendum question again. The new government has no plans to put the issue back on the agenda”.
The announcement has been reported in the Herald Sun today.
This victory should not be under-stated. When the referendum was announced it enjoyed bipartisan support and polled 75-odd per cent support. By the end a small group of individuals and organisations had broken apart that consensus and support dropped to less than 50 per cent. It went from bipartisan consensus to not being on the ballot. An incredible victory considering all the odds were stacked against the opponents with an army of high-priced consultants, lobbyists and politicians arguing for change.
Disappointingly the Minister also concluded:
“I am informed that local government spent about $3.5 million on its preparation for the referendum. I have had discussions with ALGA and can inform you that it is the government’s intention that local government is not out of pocket as a result of the referendum debacle”.
Considering the referendum was never guaranteed to go ahead, it seems absurd that taxpayers should foot the bill.