Federal Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese.
Federal Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese. Jay Cronan

Some states still not supporting referendum

PRESSURE is building on some state governments to support a referendum on the constitutional recognition of local governments, as the Commonwealth considers holding the vote on the same day at the Federal Election, Septemnber 14.

After a Senate inquiry recommended the referendum be held, it gained support from federal Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese.

If successful, the referendum would see Commonwealth funds delivered directly to local governments, circumventing the states and consolidating Canberra's power in regional areas.

While Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and some other state leaders back the proposal, it is understood New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell and West Australia Premier Colin Barnett did not back the vote.

The proposal was discussed at a recent COAG Regional Australia Standing Council meeting, but the proposal remained at an impasse.

In a memo to members, Australian Local Government Association president Felicity-ann Lewis wrote the council's peak body needed the Commonwealth to "make a decision quickly to move the referendum forward".

"Councils want financial certainty. They need formal recognition as legitimate recipients of direct federal funding," she wrote.

"Without it, funding under programs such as Roads to Recovery are at risk of High Court challenge."

While ALGA and its state and territory bodies all support the recognition of councils in Australia's constitution, an absolute commitment has not yet been made.

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