With the ALP now forming government we can expect that preparations will be made for a referendum on the recognition of local government either during the life of the present Parliament, or the next Federal election.
As the situation is highly unstable (despite the hype about stability) it is difficult to know just how far off this will be.
My guess is the Coalition, sensing the wider public would be unhappy if we had to return to the polls too soon (and would punish the Coalition if it was seen to cause this), will concentrate on building up enough dissatisfaction with the new government for a fresh election to appear as the best course of action.
This will take at least a year if they are not to over-play their hand. There is also the March NSW State election to take into account, with the Liberals keen to maximize on dissatisfaction with the NSW ALP and win government here.
So we may not have the luxury of a three year campaign, but we have some time and need to make the most of it.
HOW DIFFICULT TO AMEND CONSTITUTION?
I wonder to what extent it would be possible to amend the Australian Constitution to gain recognition of local government as things presently stand with the wider Australian people.
There is a widespread cynicism regarding the importance of local government in the general community, with many people consistently undervaluing just how important local government is in our lives.
They often have good reason to be disenchanted since the present (20th century) model of local government is highly flawed and open to abuse. We need a new model of local government – one which can make use of new technologies and re-centre decision-making in our local communities.
It is no easy matter to amend the Australian Constitution, and some of the States may oppose such recognition if they regard it as a threat to their own power. So a real effort and campaign will be needed for a successful referendum.
On the positive side, the existence of local councils (of one kind or another) across Australia provide a vast network which should be able to assist in a campaign to gain Constitutional recognition.
No doubt such a campaign would build on the efforts of the Australian Local Government Association. They provide some good info on their present website, and talk about setting up a dedicated website. But will they promote a model of local government which actually empowers our local communities?
A COMMUNITY BASED MODEL OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The concern of reformwcc.info is to ensure that any model of local government which is recognised in the Australian Constitution also protects the role of community based committees (e.g. “Precinct Committees” or “Community Boards”) in Council decision making.
Long way to go on that one, and we start so far behind the pack that there is really very little chance of seeing this key design feature included in the discussion about Constitutional recognition.
Nothing new there, and this website will continue to pursue the issue of making sure that we get a 21st century model of local government recognised in the 21st century Australian Constitution.
The ALGA will be looking for support for the campaign, and success in the referendum may come down to a small margin.
A non-negotiable condition of our support must be that the model of local government recognised in the Australian Constitution includes recognition, protection and effective resourcing of community based committees (or similar) in Council decision-making.
We may never get another chance to gain Constitutional recognition these much needed reforms.
10 September 2010