The ASU has been a major supporter of funding recognition of local government for a long time. We have supported the recognition of the role local government plays in our communities and the need to also recognise the problem of cost shifting by state governments, which includes asking councils to do more with less money. The referendum at this year's federal election for the recognition of local government will help resolve these issues.
There is a need to realise that local government faces increased needs from the community as standards of living grow and the population grows (in both numbers and age).
We also need to recognise the work ASU members do in local government across our communities from regional water services, to child care, libraries, city planning, sport and recreation, street cleaning, garbage collection, parks and gardens, administration, rangers and the hundreds of industry classifications.
Constitutional recognition also means that federal governments that raise the monies providing financial support direct to local government can stop state governments creaming off any administration fees, or creating an extra layer of red tape and not making sure all monies get to the local government authority/council itself.
Assured and direct funding will support local employment and local community spending, thereby keeping money in local communities to create more jobs. That means more purchases from local stores and increased demand for local services (eg. schools, hospitals, ambulances and much more). When local services are lost, you also lose towns and community values, both financial and quality public services.
All of the above can only occur if local government is funded in real dollar terms and the funding is guaranteed, without creaming off and without the fear that the funding might cease because of some individual taking the government to court to argue some technical legal point.
In recent times some matters have been taken to the High Court with decisions that have both raised the question of funding direct to communities through local government from the Federal Government and the possibility that the Federal Government might have to cease providing funding direct to councils.
Some of the top legal minds in the country that both practice law and teach it at our universities have said the federal government funding to local government is now in danger. This is also why we are seeing Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP) and Barnaby Joyce (National) and Tony Windsor (Independent) share the same view: that local government must be recognised at law to ensure it can be funded by the federal government and the only way to do this is by a small change to the Constitution.
ASU Assistant National Secretary Greg McLean OAM, who is a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government that advised the Federal Government on recognition, said, "I endorse the ASU's position as well as the Minister's comments and the Government's proposal for the referendum as the best way to ensure funding for our communities and more decisions made locally and more local employment."
"It's been a long time coming and with the support of all politicians it can happen. With the growing reliance on local government to provide services in times of flood, bush fire and as well as in ordinary circumstances, this security is needed by our communities. I would urge all ASU members and their families to spread the word and support this important community recognition campaign," Greg McLean concluded.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese's media release can be found here: Release of Draft Constitutional Amendment to Recognise Local Government and a related news item from NEWS.com.au can be found here: Govt releases council referendum wording.
Labor people have always been champions for local community services
Email from Minister Albanese
Roads and footpaths. Parks and gardens. Sports clubs and community centres. Childcare. Help for seniors. Festivals and events. Community gardens.
For more than 40 years, federal governments have given funding to local councils to ensure our communities have these vital services.
Despite this, our most important document – the Australian Constitution – doesn't recognise this.
That's why I've just made an important announcement with the Prime Minister that on September 14 we are planning to hold a referendum on recognition of local government in our Constitution.
We need to add a few words so that federal governments can keep supporting vital services. It's a small but important change.
If you support your local community services, can you share this with your friends?
This isn't about politics. This change to our Constitution has the support of all the major parties – at this stage, even Tony Abbott.
Our challenge is to make sure our local communities know if they want to say "yes" to local services, they need to say "yes" to changing the Constitution.
Help us spread the word about this important opportunity.