Local government referendum

SA Liberals urge ‘no’ vote

More good news on the local government referendum – South Australian Liberals are urging a ‘no’ vote on the referendum:

SA Opposition economic development spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith told The Advertiser including councils in the Constitution could lead to increased red tape and political game playing over funding.

“The current arrangements work well but we do feel that a recognition and direct funding of local government formally will undermine the states and, in effect, undermine our federation,” he said.

They join the Victorian, Western Australian and Tasmanian divisions of the Liberal Party in taking a position against local government recognition.

You can watch the IPA’s latest video on the referendum here.


Monash politics lecturer: referendum dangerous

dr nick economouMonash University’s Dr. Nicholas Economou, Senior Lecturer in the School of Political and Social Inquiry, warns that the upcoming referendum on local councils is not the ‘minor amendment’ that has been portrayed by Labor:

[The referendum is just] another one of those Whitlam ideas that the current Labor Government has resurrected… I don’t accept the arguments being put forward that this is just minor tinkering which will have no effect… The proponents of the ‘yes’ argument say it’s making a minor alteration to the constitution, but the fact is if something gets mentioned in the Constitution it opens up a head of power to the Federal Government… In areas where there is concurrent Federal and State responsibility, Commonwealth would prevail… The states are resisting this because local government has always been a state responsibility and it makes sense…

For more information about the local government referendum watch the IPA’s latest video.


New IPA video on local government referendum


The Institute of Public Affairs, Australia’s oldest free market think tank, today released a new research video on why the local government referendum deserves to fail. The video is available on YouTube and can be accessed here.

“The local government referendum is nothing but a grab for power from Canberra. It deserves to fail,” said Tim Wilson, an IPA policy director.

The three minute video features Western Australian Senator Dean Smith and the Mayor of Hornsby in New South Wales, Steve Russell.

The IPA’s video will be promoted extensively online including through Facebook advertising, to ensure that as many Australians as possible are informed about the consequences of the referendum before they are asked to vote.

“Organisations like the IPA have to step up to educate the public on this referendum because the federal government has shamelessly rigged the funding to favour the ‘Yes’ case by a ratio of 20-to-1,” said Mr Wilson.

IPA research has been at the centre of the public debate about the local government referendum. Chris Berg’s article in the Sunday Age on 5 May 2013 was among the first in the media to warn about the risks of centralising power in Canberra through the referendum.

To watch the IPA video visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvXaLMCdpS4

For further information and comment please contact: Tim Wilson, on 0417 356 165 or at [email protected]


Local government referendum increasingly unlikely

The probability of the local government referendum occurring, let alone succeeding, is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Tony Abbott has today stated that people should vote ‘no’ if they have concerns about the referendum, and Christopher Pyne has called for the government to “pull the referendum” altogether.

You can read about the IPA’s arguments against the referendum here.


Local government referendum a centralist agenda in disguise: Flint

The latest issue of the Quadrant magazine includes a compelling article by prominent Australian conservative, David Flint, arguing against the proposed referendum on local government constitutional recognition. Flint’s key assessment is that:

The potential consequences of passing the amendment—whether intended or unintended—constitute a sufficient warning to Australians of the danger of giving the Canberra politicians a blank cheque to proceed.

This assesment is based on the interrelated risks associated with a carried referendum. These include: centralising commonwealth government powers; reducing local government accountability to ratepayers; increasing fiscal burdens through growth in bureaucracy; displacing local government core functions and activities; and unleashing a host of unintended consequences, such as never-ending legal challenges over the status of local governments.

Flint is also scathing of the unequal funding distribution allocated to the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ referendum case advocates, labelling the funding outcome put in place by the federal government as one more commonly seen in ‘banana republics.’

The entire article by David Flint against the local government referendum can be read here.


Nethercote: One-sided local government referendum a flawed idea

In an important piece published in yesterday’s edition of The Canberra Times, political science and public policy academic John Nethercote criticised various aspects of the referendum proposal to include local government bodies in the Australian Constitution.

The most striking feature of Nethercote’s critique is his depiction of the inherent injustices arising from the heavily skewed public funding toward the ‘yes’ case:

These grants raise the question of why – apart from the extensive information material about the pros and cons of the proposal provided to the voters under the auspices of the Electoral Commission – it is necessary to provide any such funding at all.

This is a very apposite question in the present case. Local government, with its nationwide network of councils, is admirably placed to promote its own cause throughout the country if it so desires (although not all councils welcome the prospective attentions of the constitution).

Indeed, if anyone needs assistance to place a case before the public, it is those advocating a ”no” vote. They are not organised; they have no nationwide network at the ready to promote their case; they have no substantial finances to fund their advocacy.

The immediate matter at issue is, however, the disparity in the funding, the proposition that the ”yes” case is the only side of the question deserving support and that all the ”no” case deserves is a limited, and repressive, tolerance.

Nethercote also issues a timely warning to naive council mayors and shire presidents, who conceive that federal funding under a carried referendum will be discharged in accordance with the preferences of local governments:

Among those who clearly need to give more thought to the wisdom of this change to the constitution is local government itself. It especially needs to understand that tied grants under section 96 might, very quickly, come to be funded from monies now coming its way as a general purpose grant.

Local government will thus be taught what the Greeks learnt three millennia ago, that when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers!


Tasmania expresses deep concerns about local government referendum

The New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian governments have declared their opposition to the local government constitutional recognition referendum agenda, standing up against efforts by Canberra to acquire unparalleled powers to interfere with local government authorities.

The Tasmanian government has now come out and done what, in the political circumstances, is the closest thing a state Labor government has done thus far to oppose the centralist plan: express serious reservations about installing Canberra in every town hall, and announce it will at least not campaign in support of the idea.

During recent exchanges between the government and opposition in the Tasmanian parliament, Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister, Bryan Green said:

I think the Premier has already indicated that we are not providing any assistance.  The Tasmanian Government has given careful consideration of the proposed amendment to section 96 that would see local government given financial recognition in the Australian Constitution.  Early in the consultation process we raised a number of concerns relating to the proposed amendments with the commonwealth and the Tasmanian government believes it is up to the community to have their say on the merit of the proposal on 14 September 2013 when the federal election is on.  We have made it pretty clear that we have some reservations about this matter passing, but we have made a decision not to campaign actively one way or the other.

The full parliamentary exchange, referring to the Tasmanian government position, can be found here.


Referendum bill passes Senate 46-8

The bill to allow the local government referendum has tonight passed the Senate 46 votes to 8.

The eight Senators to vote against the bill, despite official support from both major parties, were:

  • Cory Bernardi, Liberal, SA
  • Dean Smith, Liberal, WA
  • Bridget McKenzie, National, VIC
  • Alan Eggleston, Liberal, WA
  • David Bushby, Liberal, TAS
  • Chris Back, Liberal, WA
  • David Fawcett, Liberal, SA
  • John Madigan, DLP, VIC

In addition, a number of Liberal frontbenchers abstained from the vote, including Eric Abetz, Mitch Fifield, Scott Ryan, Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, Brett Mason, Stephen Parry and Richard Colbeck, along with backbencher Bill Heffernan.

This extraordinary show of disapproval from Coalition Senators is yet another piece of evidence of significant opposition within the Coalition to the federal takeover of local councils.

UPDATE: Further abstentions include Michael Ronaldson, David Johnson, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Sean Edwards and Helen Kroger.

That means just seven Liberals and four Nationals voted in favour of the bill. The full vote is available here.


State politician lambasts Canberra in every town hall

In today’s edition of the Herald Sun newspaper, Victorian state upper house Coalition MP Phil Davis has written a piece strongly opposing the local government referendum proposal:

The so-called “small” amendment could have big ramifications for our current system of government. The change is designed to give Canberra direct control over local councils by diminishing the role of state governments.

As for the unequal funding distribution for the referendum campaign, which sees the ‘no’ campaign given a miniscule $500,000 compared against the many millions of dollars to the ‘yes’ campaign:

The way in which the Federal Government has mismanaged this debate proves that it cannot be trusted.

The final word of advice that Mr Davis offers is as

The legacy of Julia Gillard’s Labor Government will linger long after she has gone. Do not let her leave a stain on the founding document of our nation. We should leave the Constitution alone and preserve our federal system of government.

You can read the entire piece here.


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