Joint Parliamentary Committee
President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), Felicity-ann Lewis welcomed Parliament's decision to support local government's call to establish a Parliamentary Committee as the next step towards a referendum on the constitutional recognition of local government. A motion to establish a 12 member Joint Select Committee to consider constitutional recognition of local government was carried through both the upper and lower houses on 31 October.
A press release and opinion by the Committee Chair Ms Michelle Rowland MP is available here and here.
Letter from Minister Crean on the appointment of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government can be viewed here.
The ALGA President wrote to all councils on 9 November 2012 and 22 November to update them on the establishment and progress of the joint select parliamentary committee, and urging councils to make submissions to the inquiry, with some key points to include in submissions. The template letter from the President on 9 November is available here. The template letter from the President on 22 November is available here. Copies of a document prepared by ALGA The Case for Change: Why local government needs to be in the Australian Constitution were distributed with the 22 November letter and can be downloaded here.
ALGA's submission to the Joint Select Committee on 18 December 2012 can be downloaded here.
The Committee released a Preliminary Report on 24 January which recommended that the Commonwealth begin all necessary preparatory activities to ensure a successful outcome for a referendum on financial recognition in 2013. A dissenting report offered by the Committee's Coalition members raised concerns, shared by ALGA, about the time available to complete the steps identified in the Expert Panel report to ensure the best chances of a winnable referendum. The Preliminary Report can be downloaded here.
ALGA's Press Release following the release of the Preliminary Report is available here.
The day of the release of the committee's Preliminary Report the ALGA President wrote to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asking them to make a joint statement about the need for constitutional change proposed by the Expert Panel and supported by the Committee. A further letter was sent to the then Local Government Minister Simon Crean to ask what the Government intends to do with regard to meeting the preconditions identified in the Expert Panel report and referred to in the Committee's preliminary report, particularly the need to engage the states on the proposed change to secure their support. A further letter was sent to former Minister Crean on 7 February seeking an early response to the Preliminary Report's recommendations.
ALGA made a supplementary submission to the Joint Select Committee on 31 January 2013 which can be downloaded here.
ALGA appeared at public hearings on 16 January and 20 February 2013, the transcripts of which are available on the Committee's website. The ALGA President's opening statement to the 20 February hearing outlines the actions ALGA has taken since the first hearing to engage with state governments and information gathered on the activities and timelines of the last referendum held in Australia - the Republic Referendum in 1999.
The Joint Select Committee released its final report on 7 March. The single recommendation made by the Majority Report was to proceed with a referendum at the September 14 Federal Election. The recommendation reads:
Taking the major finding into consideration, the Committee recommends
that a referendum on the financial recognition of local government be put
to Australian voters at the 2013 federal election.
A dissenting report was issued by the Coalition saying the Commonwealth had not taken action to put in place the pre-conditions highlighted by the Expert Panel and the committee's Preliminary Report. Coalition members were of the view that the time remaining between now and 14 September 2013 is likely to be insufficient to put in place the necessary mechanics, education campaigns and other measures and Coalition members are of the opinion that the referendum should only be considered once the pre-conditions identified by the Expert Panel have actually been met. They recommended that a referendum on financial recognition only be held after the preconditions posed by the Expert Panel and those previously promoted by ALGA had been met.
The Final Report can be accessed here.
ALGA's Press Release following the release of the final report is available here.