By Paul Hemsley
Outgoing Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) President Paul Bell has reversed his decision to downsize to a smaller role in local politics, revealing instead he will run for the presidency of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) for a second time.
The ALGA presidency has been open since the departure of North Sydney Mayor Genia McCaffery, with City of Marion Mayor Felicity-ann Lewis stepping into the role during an interim period until elections the middle of November.
Mr Bell has previously held the top role at ALGA from 2004 to 2008. He said his decision to take a second tilt stemmed from a desire to realise a push for the federal government to have local government recognised in the federal constitution.
ALGA has been persistently advocating for official federal and budgetary recognition of local government through an amendment to Section 96 of the Constitution, a move that would have to be put to a referendum.
The proposed amendment would read: 'Parliament may grant financial assistance to any state or local government body formed by or under a law of a state or territory on such terms and conditions as the Parliament sees fit'.
Following Mr Bell’s resignation from the LGAQ presidency after eight years, he initially told Government News he would to stay on the LGAQ board and continue as a councillor for Central Highlands Regional Council.
Mr Bell said he feels strongly about the issue of constitutional rights of local government and its place “in the Federal scene”.
He said he will “commit to do everything” within his power to ensure that the referendum goes ahead “at the time when we can win”.
“Having another lap as ALGA president and enduring Canberra’s weather wasn’t on my, or my wife’s, to-do list – more time at home in Emerald with family and grandkids was,” Mr Bell said.
ALGA’s has been trying persuade the federal government to act on the issue of Constitutional recognition through the creation of Parliamentary Committee it hopes will foster bipartisan support and work out the timing of a referendum and the constitutional amendment’s actual wording.
According to the LGAQ federal Local Government minister, Simon Crean, is set to establish a Joint Select Committee on this issue to Parliament later this month.
“We are urging councils across Queensland, and indeed the country to be prepared to engage in the Parliamentary Committee process,” Mr Bell said.
"ALGA intends to make a submission to the Committee highlighting the importance of having local government recognised in the Constitution and all councils will be encouraged to do the same."
As Mr Bell leaves his position at the LGAQ, Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell and Brisbane Councillor Margaret de Wit will stand for his role, to be decided by a secret ballot announced on Wednesday 24th October 2012.
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