On election date 2013 Australians will be asked to vote in a referendum to change our Constitution. Canberra politicians and bureaucrats want to sneak through a change to our Constitution to give them more control of our local communities.
Even minor changes to the Constitution that holds Canberra politicians and bureaucrats to account, can have radical consequences.
As former Prime Minister, John Howard, said “even a casual reference to local government in the Constitution would end up having legal implications far beyond what might be advocated by the proponents of such a change”.
The referendum is not necessary. There is nothing stopping Canberra providing funding to local government through the States, unless they want to avoid accountability.
This Canberra power grab has been rejected at referendums by the overwhelming majority of Australians during the Whitlam and Hawke governments. It has been rejected twice because these additional words will:
Harm local services
Strings will be attached to funding provided to local government based on the priorities of Canberra politicians and bureaucrats. That means services will be based on Canberra’s convenience and political agendas, not on local community need. If your local council wants to build a new community swimming pool, but Canberra says they have to build a new school hall, a new school hall will be built.
Harm local government
Councils want this referendum to pass because they think it will boost their importance and increase their funding. It won’t. Funding will be tied based on the priorities of Canberra politicians and bureaucrats. Cash-strapped local mayors will be steam rolled by the Prime Minister who will hold all the cards in the funding deck. There is no reason to think Councils will be better off. More Canberra funding may also mean less State funding.
Allow a power grab by Canberra politicians and bureaucrats
Currently Canberra ties strings to funding it gives to the States based on the priorities of Canberra politicians and bureaucrats, without any consideration of local need. That’s how we got homes burned down because of the Rudd government’s disastrous pink batts scheme, and schools being forced to build new halls when they needed other essential buildings. The same strings will be attached to funding to local government and lead to money being allocated based on what’s best for Canberra politicians and bureaucrats, not community need.
Increase political buck-passing
Australians want the political buck-passing to stop. The current buck-passing between Canberra and the States is based on tied funding agreements. This referendum will ensure buck-passing will increase between all three levels of government. Each Council and Shire will blame the Federal government and their State for not having enough money to fund local services. State and Federal governments will blame each other for the shortfall. Meanwhile local communities will miss out.
Increase rates and cut accountability
Every funding agreement will require Councils and Shires to meet extra regulations imposed by Canberra. Every extra regulation adds layers of extra costs and bureaucracy onto local government that can only be paid for through local service cuts, or rate increases.
For the first time local government will be acknowledged in the Constitution allowing it to be separately recognized from State governments. As soon as cash-strapped Councils and Shires are able to legally sit separately, the State governments will be in a weaker position to stop massive rate hikes through rate caps, or be able to sack corrupt or dodgy politicians. Councils will also become accountable to Canberra politicians and bureaucrats because they’ll be the ones who pay.
Harm Australian democracy
Our system of government isn’t perfect, but it has helped us build the best country on earth. We shouldn’t be removing checks and balances that hold Canberra politicians and bureaucrats to account unless there is an exceptional need. This referendum isn’t necessary, and will have dangerous unintended consequences on local communities and services.
More to this than meets the eye
The proposed change is for any local government body to be directly funded. Interpreted legally a local government body can include any local service established by State governments. That means distant Canberra politicians and bureaucrats could capture control of schools, hospitals, community, child care, sporting and arts services and facilities and require them to deliver what Canberra wants, not what your community needs.
More information about why Australians should vote ‘no’ is available here.