A referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution is planned to accompany this year's federal election. The ASU asks Australians to vote YES for this recognition to ensure our local councils are able to continue to provide the services we have all come to expect.
Local government employees across our communities provide services like local roads, footpaths, parks, gardens, sports clubs, community centres, child care, help for seniors, festivals, events, libraries, city planning, recreation facilities, street cleaning, garbage collection, administration, rangers and many hundreds of different jobs.
For more than 40 years, federal governments have given funding to local councils to ensure our communities can continue to provide these vital services.
This has at times been via direct project funding which has helped build and restore services. We saw this during the global financial crisis injection of monies into communities, supporting local employment and local spending. This, in turn, built more jobs and services in our communities, like local store purchases, schools, hospitals, ambulances and much more.
There is also a need to realise that local government faces increased demands from the community as standards of living grow and the population grows (in both numbers and age).
Federal government financial support is now, more than ever, critical to local government and our communities but in recent times questions around that funding have been taken to the High Court. Judicial decisions have now left the door open on ending funding direct to local government from the federal government of the day.
The country's top legal minds have said the federal government's direct funding to local government is in danger and that local government must be recognised in the Constitution to ensure it can continue to be funded by the federal government and have certainty that it can continue to provide services.
Constitutional recognition is not about politics, it's about guaranteed services to local communities and local decisions. Only 10 MPs in Federal Parliament voted against holding the referendum (179 voted for it) and the majority of politicians across the country, including state politicians, supported it. Fewer than 2% of local councils oppose the referendum.
It's an issue that can't be fixed by politicians, but only by the citizens of our country through a referendum.
The ASU has been a major supporter of funding recognition of local government for a very long time. We have also supported the recognition of the role local government plays in our communities and the need to recognise the problem of cost shifting by state governments, which includes asking councils to do more with less money.
The 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.
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