ALGA demands funding for civics education blitz

By Paul Hemsley and Julian Bajkowski

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has called for money to be urgently freed up under the Referendums (Machinery Provisions) Act to educate the Australian public about Constitutional matters in the run-up to a vote on financial recognition in the federal election in September 2013 – if it happens.

The peak body now wants political parties and independent Members of Parliament to support the removal of constraints on referendum funding after ALGA gave its support for a referendum on financial recognition of Local Government to be held at the next federal election.

The move to free up money for civics education, which is essentially telling the general public why there is a case for Constitutional change, comes as amount of time to convince people begins to dwindle in the face of continued internal brawling in the labor Gillard government.

Local governments now have to contend with the sacking of federal Minister for Local Government and Regional Australia and Regional Simon Crean following Labor’s latest episode of self-mutilation that culminated in damaging leadership spill that produced no challengers.

Shadow local government minister Barnaby Joyce immediately hit out at consequences of Mr Crean’s removal which have produced policy until a new Local Government Minister is decided.

“The problem we have now is that I am Shadow to a person that does not exist,” Senator Joyce said. “

“There is no Minister for Regional Development. The person who said he was going to drive through Constitutional recognition of local government is now gone. The Labor party has sat on the Spigelman review,which recommended a referendum on constitutional recognition of local government at the 2013 election, for over a year.

“Now less than six months from an election we have no response, no legislation and no Minister,” Senator Joyce said.

Those circumstances do not help ALGA.

The national local government peak body and some of its state associations managed to swallow their reservations on referendum timing to display a united commitment to changing Section 96 of the Constitution last month and have pledged to provide “millions of dollars” to campaign for a referendum, claiming that it is “vital that public funding is made available”.

Federal Special Minister of State Gary Gray introduced the Referendums (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2013 this week which includes the changes to remove public funding constraints on referendums that ALGA is urging MPs to support.

ALGA President Felicity-ann Lewis has argued that there is limited understanding of Constitutional matters in the Australian community, resulting in a call public information funding.

This call was made in ALGA’s submissions to the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government and the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government.

Ms Lewis said local government has consistently argued for the need to public funding for a public education campaign, as well as funding for “well-developed” Yes and No cases for referendums.

“Funding arrangements for the last referendum held in this country on the Republic in 1999 provided $19.5 million of public funding, with $7.5 million going to either side of the republic debate and $4.5 million spent on a neutral information campaign over a period of five months.  The same funding arrangements should apply to all referendums,” Ms Lewis said.

She said ALGA has also proposed that funding be available for the campaigns for the Yes and No cases to ensure that arguments in favour and against the referendum questions are “comprehensively” before the people to ensure and informed debate and vote.

According to ALGA, the Joint Select Committee has also supported public funding for referendum campaigns.

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0 thoughts on “ALGA demands funding for civics education blitz

  1. This is madness. Why in the world would we be stupid enough to support yet another level of bureaucracy in Australia – two are more than sufficient thank you.

    Local Govts have, and can continue to function quite satisfactorily under the control of their respective, and well established, State Govt’s. Nothing needs to change.

    Our Federal Budget is in deep debt and getting worse by the day (no thanks to the incompetence of the current Green led Labor Govt). This proposed referendum is a sheer waste of public funds!

    Should it be presented to us onElection Day 14th Sept 2013, I shall not be voting for it!

  2. Would someone kindly explain why Comments registered on this site are not displayed for all to see?

    I registered a comment on this site in the last few days but there’s no sign of it, nor of any other comments that might have been made by others.

    Why is it so ?

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