The people of Australia go to the polls on September 14 to elect the Australian Government. They will also vote the same day in a referendum that will have lasting impacts for councils across the nation.
The referendum – the 45th since Federation – seeks to amend the Australian Constitution to formally recognise Local Government. Australia’s system of government has three levels – National, State and Local Government, but the Constitution does not acknowledge this fact.
The referendum will ask Australians to agree to amend Section 96 of the Constitution. A majority “yes’ vote from the people and the states would be a rightful acknowledgement that Local Government is a fundamental part of governmental structure.
Local Government is the level of government closest to the people. It is certainly the level of government that delivers the amenity of our suburbs and in many ways the lifestyle of our city.
It delivers essential services such as garbage collection through to festivals, to delivering on the life and colour of our city.
For many years the Federal Government has been making direct grants to Councils. These funding programs are now under threat.
During the Howard years the Federal Government established the `Roads to Recovery Program’, which gave direct grants to Councils for road projects.
The Federal Government also provides funding to Councils for `blackspot’ road safety upgrades.
Over the years, Federal grants have either wholly or partly funded dozens of infrastructure upgrades in the Redlands to the tune of millions of dollars. These projects include:
• Smith Street Cleveland upgrade
• Finucane Road upgrade
• Upgrade of Wellington Point Reserve
• Upgrade of Capalaba Regional Park
• Upgrade of Victoria Point Reserve
• Upgrade of Cleveland Point Reserve
• Fitness Activity Stations in multiple Redlands parks
• Russell Island Sport and Recreation Park
• Point Lookout Hall
• North Stradbroke Island Gorge Walk
These projects provide not just much-needed infrastructure for our community but also generate local jobs.
If we do not have funding certainty many programs could be lost, or have to be funded from other sources – such as council rates.
This referendum is about one simple thing – certainty of funding for local government.
It will not change the relationship that Councils have with State Governments.
Councils will still be accountable to the State Government in terms of reporting.
The State Government retains the powers to sack a Council that is not being financially responsible. The State also has the power to undertake the amalgamation of Councils and will review and give final approval to Council laws.
The Referendum is supported by the Australian Government, the Coalition, the Greens and the Independents. It is supported by councils across Australia
I urge you to support the recognition of Local Government in the Constitution by voting YES.