Referendum on recognising local government?

A parliamentary committee recommended a referendum on the recognition of local government at the same time as the next federal election.

"But Coalition MPs and Senators issued a dissenting report, saying there was too little time to prepare for a referendum, and the risk of failure was too high."

Bianca Hall Read more:

Key points in the article:

  • The purpose of the change to the constitution: "guarantee the federal government's ability to directly fund local government projects like Roads to Recovery; a guarantee that recent High Court cases stripped away."
  • "In June, the High Court ruled that the national school chaplaincy program was  constitutionally invalid because it exceeded the Commonwealth's funding powers."

  • "Committee chairwoman and Labor MP Michelle Rowland... Attorney-General's department should draft a constitutional amendment by January 31 ..."
  • ''Past crises in Australia have highlighted the need for governments to be able to respond rapidly and flexibly to ensure the well-being of their communities,'' Ms Rowland wrote.
  • "Experts told the committee that the current funding arrangements, including for the Roads to Recovery project that builds and upgrades regional roads, were unconstitutional."
  • ''It is therefore not a matter of 'if' but of 'when' the presently understood ability for the Commonwealth to fund local government directly is struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court,'' the report stated.

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As no division was called for, the President drew attention to the constitutional requirement that the bill must be passed by an absolute majority and directed that the bells be rung.

AYES - 46

Carr, Kim
Di Natale
Polley (Teller)


NOES - 8

Bushby (Teller)


























Question agreed to by an absolute majority of the Senate, as required by the Constitution.

Event - Referendum

Debate in Parliament - 133/2

Wednesday, 5 June 2013 DIVISION:AYES 133 (131 majority) NOES 2 PAIRS 1 Question agreed to.

The SPEAKER: The question is resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority as required by the Constitution.

Bill read a third time.

Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013

Leading up to the launch of the Referendum Campaign

For analysis of coming referendum See

6 June 2013 Lee Rhiannon Qld govt changes support

6 June 2013 A win for local communities

5 June 2013 Voting in the House of Representatives (see above)

21 May 2013 Conversation: Do ministers really know what they are proposing?

21 May 2013 Crikey: Govt is pressing on

16 May 2013 Australian Local Government Association, Local government welcomes Bill to allow 2013 referendum, media release (1)

16 May 2013, Senator B Joyce (Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water), Local Government Referendum, media doorstop.

16 May 2013. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, p. 229. (1)

16 May 2013 A Albanese (Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) and M Dreyfus (Attorney-General), Release of draft constitutional amendment to recognise local government, joint media statement, 16 May 2013. (1) Note that the words ‘on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.’ are part of Section 96 but do not appear in this press release.  This is made clearer in the exposure-draft of the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill a link to which is included in the joint media statement.

16 May 2013 Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, Report. (1)

16 May 2013

16 May 2013 Local Government welcomes bill to allow 2013 referendum The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed today's release of the draft constitutional amendment bill, which outlines a small and pragmatic change to the Constitution to include local government. ... click here for more information

15 May 2013. Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, Constitutional recognition legislation moves referendum closer, media release, (1)

13 May 2013 Why are we having a referendum?

13 May 2013 A Abbott (Leader of the Opposition), Joint press conference with Joe Hockey (Shadow Treasurer) and Jamie Briggs (Coalition spokesman on scrutiny of government waste), transcript. (1)

13 May 2013 The South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi is calling on the Coalition to hold a party-room vote before throwing its support behind the referendum to recognise local government. Senator Bernardi is against constitutional change

9 May 2013 PM Councils say yes to constitutional change

9 May 2013 <Heading> Local government referendum to be held on 14 September<Heading> ... the prime minister announced the Australian government's intention to proceed with a referendum to recognise local government in the constitution. The referendum will be held on the same day as the federal election, on September 14 this year, and will ask voters to cast a vote on "financial" recognition - to enable the commonwealth to continue to provide direct funding to local services and local communities.

9 May 2013 7:06PM Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched the "yes" campaign

4 May 2013

20 June 2012 Conversation: The High Court school chaplains case and what it means for Commonwealth funding: Today ...

September 2011. Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, Final report,

(1). Taken from "Key events as out lined in Note

Simon Crean

Financial Review

"The federal opposition says it will take part in cross-party talks about whether to go ahead with a referendum on recognising local government in the Constitution, a move with significant implications for local government finances." Laura Tingle

Financial Review

"Local governments should consider forming a central borrowing authority style alliance that uses the strength of their collective asset base to access debt at competitive market rates to fund new infrastructure, Local Government Minister Simon Crean says." Laura Tingle

It's time we reduced the tiers of government to just that of Federal and local governance and dispensed with State governments altogether.  The whole system is duplicative, costly, and party partisan serving only to place a brake on the Australian economy and productivity. I'd be all for a referendum to achieve this end.

This is an interesting moment in Australia's federation. The direct federal funding to local government has now been officially rendered as 'unconstitutional' by the High Court. To overcome this problem without constitutional reform the Commonwealth has to agree to increase in real and pragmatic terms the powers of the States, something it is loath to do. The States are at present the weakest and most corrupt and idiotic than at any time since 1901. At this moment of climate change and global warming, NBN, and globalisation generally, their borders make less and less sense to anyone with half a brain, and yet the Commonwealth is being called upon to give the direct funds back to the States, for them to distribute to local government. Since federation, key players have recognised the futility of trying to make a go of States that have been out of date for 200 years. Take a look at

It's time to take ideas in this BloggerMe site seriously. We need to remove one tier of governance in Australia. I believe the easiest and most effective way of doing that is to increase the number of States to coincide with proper local government. You can do it other ways, but it is a difficult and tricky path requiring enormous constitutional reform, and with no guarantees of successful outcome. To link the reform of the State boundary to the flow of water, introduces those guarantees.

But to simply recognise the existence of local government in the constitution without getting rid of the states would be the worst of all possible worlds!

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