HINDMARSH Shire Council voted unanimously last week to commit to participation, at a municipal level, in a national campaign to seek recognition for local government in the Australian constitution.
The Australian Local Government Association is campaigning for the inclusion of local government in the Constitution, to provide financial certainty about direct federal funding to councils. Parliament voted in support of the campaign on May 30 by putting it to a referendum in the September 2013 federal election.
Local government generates about 80 per cent of it’s own revenue, with grants from the state and federal governments providing an additional source of funding. Vital federal funding can come directly from the federal government to councils, or as payments through the states, for distribution to councils under the Victorian Grants Commission. A significant example is the “Roads to Recovery” program which has provided Victorian councils with almost $1 billion in funding since it commenced in 2001.
The preferred wording recommended by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government (2012), and supported by the ALGA is an amendment that reads as follows:
“Parliament may grant financial assistance to any state or local government body formed by or under a law of a state or territory”.
The ALGA are in the process of finalising the appointment of a national campaign director for the “yes” campaign, as well as interviewing for advertising representation and a media buyer.
It was previously identified by ALGA that a national campaign could cost local government about $10 million. The Municipal Association of Victoria, which is involved in the extensive planning for the “yes” campaign, have written to all councils requesting voluntary contributions totaling $2.06 million, to be based on population and revenue.
HSC voted to formally commit to the campaign and to contribute $2,133 to the MVA. Council was originally asked to consider contributing $5,359, an amount not included in the Council budget 2013/14. Acting chief executive officer, Tony Doyle stated at Council’s meeting that the suggested figure was “artificially high due to money from flood grants.” He went on to say that consideration should be given to spending rate-payers’ money and that the Council contribution of $2,133, based on population only, was “not an unreasonable amount.”