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LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFERENDUM July 2, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Tony Abbott has effectively withdrawn support from the Local Government Referendum, which means that bipartisan support reflected by the voting in Parliament has been withdrawn, and thus it is likely to fail.

The Rudd Government has its own agenda arising from concern with deciding on an election date. Surely, it would have been wiser to leave the problem and the decision with the government. He now has to explain his position not to people who never understand the need for constitutional amendment but to the voters in the bush and their representatives. It seems to me to wiser politically to allow Keven Rudd to bear the fallout, rather than offering a wedge issue, which may work to the advantage of Independents standing in country electorates, in what now seems to be an electoral outcome that will be closer. Own goals create the most pressure on political leaders. Furthermore, it shows that Tony Abbott has not been tested up to now.

Michelle Grattan, at The Conversation reports:

Tony Abbott has given the government an excuse to ditch the proposed referendum to recognise local government in the constitution, if it wants to. Abbott today advised Australians who did not understand the issue to vote against the change. The opposition leader has in principle backed recognition, but said while campaigning today in Victoria: “If you are not fully persuaded, don’t vote for it, because our constitution is far too important to be trifled with.”

The government is equivocal about the referendum, both because it appears doomed to failure and it limits Kevin Rudd’s options on election dates. If the government wants to persevere with the referendum it cannot go to the people before September 14, because of the timetable it requires. This is despite the fact that Anthony Albanese, who was minister for local government until the reshuffle, said at the weekend that an election could be brought forward to mid-August and still be accompanied by the referendum.

The opposition has been sharply divided over the referendum, with Abbott caught in the middle. Many Coalition senators crossed the floor or abstained when the legislation was voted on in the Senate and the Liberal federal council and some state Liberal divisions have voted against constitutional recognition. But opposition spokesman on local government Barnaby Joyce has been a passionate advocate for a yes vote.

Peter Olney presents the case against Federal financial support for local government, or as he prefers to say, local councils. The video notes advise:

Peter Olney has been studying Australian Federal and State Constitutions for 30 years. With local councils ( again ) seeking to be included in the Constitution , despite two previously unsuccessful referendums, Peter demonstrates the corrupted nature of the present Constitutional Law and hence gives his reasons why it would be grossly incorrect to have any constitutional recognition for local councils.

As voters on the electoral role, we give legitimacy to local government.

Peter Olney presents his entertaining arguments:

Does he demonstrate that Constitutional Law is corrupt? Despite abstentions this proposed change to the Constitution was supported overwhelmingly in Federal Parliament. Call to Australia was group headed by Fred Nile on the ballot for the NSW Legislative Assembly.  If the problem is as proposed, then a constitutional fix may be to propose a government res publica, of the people, and thus to correct any ambiguity as who signs the laws, as distinct from who proposes and enacts  and ultimately consents to the laws. When and if, local government is recognized in the Federal Constitution, that is what they will be, even it seems in Victoria  where as suggested the State legislation is contrary to the intention or express terms of the State Constitution.

Dr Lyndon Megarrity wrote a paper for the House of Reps, Local Government and the Commonwealth: An Evolving Relationship. Most voters are  not constitutional lawyers, perhaps who have little familiarity, if at all, with either the Federal Constitution, or the State Constitution. Most referenda, without the imprimatur of bipartisan approval are doomed to fail. The fact that referenda have repeatedly failed is no reflection of  lack of inherent merit, but rather lack of persuasive presentation to counter what frequently might be misinformation.

A key point to be made is that local governments or councils were inherited from the British model of a centralized, unified government, closely identified with the monarch. This is broken down with the process of devolution, and the potential independence, if the referendum proves a success, of Scotland. Even in the United States, where a stronger sense of local government prevails, and with some very significant local governments, as in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, there are cases of local governments been treated as poor relations. In NSW subjecting local government to administrators, rather than re-elections, has proven expedient, even if non-democratic.

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