The Referendum That Wasn’t Constitutional Recognition of Local Government and Australia’s Ongoing Federal Reform Dilemma Gilbert + Tobin Centre UNSW Constitutional Law Conference, 14 February 2014 A J Brown
Constitutional Recognition of Local Governmentand Australia’s Ongoing Federal Reform Dilemma
Gilbert + Tobin Centre UNSW Constitutional Law Conference, 14 February 2014
A J Brown
Professor of Public Policy & LawCentre for Governance & Public Policy, Griffith University, QLD<www.griffith.edu.au/federalism>
The Parliament may grant financial assistance to any local government body on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
1988 – Section 119A, as proposed to be inserted (Ch V):
Each State shall provide for the establishment and continuance of a system of local government, with local government bodies elected in accordance with the laws of the State and empowered to administer, and to make by-laws for, their respective areas in accordance with the laws of the State.
2013 – Section 96, as proposed to be amended:
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State, or to any local government body formed by a law of a State, on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
Public ownership and education
Sound and sensible proposals
Bipartisanship / political consensus
1. Problem(s) need addressing / positive reason to change
2. Fair consensus that this change will address / achieve result
3. Downsides or risks to the change are negligible / worth it
4. Issue is important relative to other issues
5. ‘Utopian moment’ – contribute to destiny as a nation
Support for substantive, reform-driven recognition of local government (ACVS 2008)
(If changes state there must always be a system of localgovernment, set rules and standards of accountability, andguarantee a reasonable level of funding for local govt)
Questions:Which level of government, if any, do you think needs more power today? Which level of government, if any, do you think has too much power today?
At the moment, the Constitution does not actually mention or officially recognise that local government exists in Australia. Which one of the following comes closest to your view?
Thinking about other things that could be changed in the Constitution. Do you think it is important, or not important for Australia to have a referendum about the following things in the next few years. [If important, is that very important or somewhat important?]
A FIRST, THEN B-D RANDOMISED, MAINTAINING ORDER C-D
Importance of holding referendum in next few years by state (March 2010) (Very important)
Question: ‘If you think about how effective each level of government is in doing its particular job, which one level - federal, state or local - do you think currently does its job the most effectively?’
Question: Please indicate whether you would be likely to support the following potential issues that could be put to a referendum? Base: Total n=1,502 voters
Why such a ‘near miss’?
Is recognition of local government a dead issue?
Growing importance / political status.
The future: a stand alone issue?
First, can’t be the same again.
Second, public resonance.
Third, support or at least minimum opposition of the States.
Fourth, too complex due to the extent of variation between States.
Federal grants; ‘Band-aid solution’ (Williams No. 2).
Growing functional importance / political status of the level.
No. Must be a more comprehensive reform package.
- Can’t be the same again.
- Public resonance.
- Issues of importance to the States must also be resolved.
- Too complex due to the extent of variation between States.