State Govt ‘No’ on referendum

DESPITE the majority of Federal Parliamentarians, of both sides of politics, supporting the Local Government Amendment Bill, Victoria’s Coalition government has come out strongly opposing the yes case in September’s Referendum.

Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said the Federal government had cut $307,935 from Commonwealth grants to Wellington Shire Council in 2013-14, while spending $55 million on the referendum to include local government in the constitution.

“If (it) can find $55 million to fund a completely unnecessary referendum on local government, then they can restore this critical funding back to our local council.”

Federal Regional Development and Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese said Constitutional recognition was about granting certainty so local councils could continue to provide the services and facilities so many people used every day.

“The Commonwealth has partnered with local councils to deliver local roads, sporting fields, libraries, childcare and community services,” he said.

“Together we have delivered programs like Roads to Recovery which has enabled upgrade and repair work to take place at 16,000 road sites across the country.”

Meanwhile Eastern Victoria MLC Philip Davis has claimed the Federal government has corrupted the process of constitutional change with the allocation of resources ahead of the referendum.

He said the Federal Government had given $10.5 million to the Australian Local Government Association for the “yes” case, while the “no” case had been given $500,000.

“Local councils throughout Australia are digging into ratepayers’ pockets for an additional $10 million to support the ‘yes’ vote. In Victoria local councils have been asked to contribute $2 million of ratepayers’ money,” Mr Davis said.

He said Australians should be able to consider the issues with equal resources given to both sides of the debate.

“Regardless of your political persuasion, the Australian notion of a ‘fair go’ has been dealt a serious blow.”

“My view and the view of the Victorian Coalition Government is that the proposed change … would weaken our current system of government and lead to a centralisation of power in Canberra,” Mr Davis said.

Mr Albanese said the funding provided for each case reflected the proportion of Members of Parliament who voted for and against the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) Amendment Bill 2013.

“The government will offer up to $500,000 to proponents of the ‘no’ case to put its case to the community. The two Members who voted against the Bill have been asked to determine the distribution of this funding,” he said.