Crean reaffirms referendum support after crisis talks

By Julian Bajkowski

Federal minister for Local Government Simon Crean has ratcheted-up pressure on state premiers to get behind a referendum on Constitutional recognition and direct funding of council projects from Canberra.

The renewed push to get states on board comes after crisis talks were held between the Australian Local Government Association and Mr Crean on Friday over concerns from the peak body that Canberra has not left enough time to educate people on the merits of a Constitutional amendment ahead of the 14th September federal election.

“We remain committed to a referendum that has the support of the states and is therefore likely to succeed,” a statement from Mr Crean’s office said.

The move to reaffirm support and call for state backing is effectively a challenge from Mr Crean to Coalition premiers in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia to back the vote for Constitutional recognition and direct funding or risk losing already allocated funds if they are challenged in the courts.

The federal Coalition has already backed a vote with Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce previously accusing Mr Crean in Government News of attempting to let the referendum whither on the vine.

All sides of federal politics, including the Greens and the Independents support the push for a September referendum.

However the meeting with Mr Crean appears to have done little to mollify the fears of ALGA that a referendum held in haste will result in a negative vote and potentially banish a similar plebiscite to the political wilderness for another 20 years to 50 years.

“Given the federal election is set for 14th September, this could reduce the time available for the legislative and administrative processes for a referendum to just five and a half months,” ALGA president Felicity-ann Lewis said in a dispatch to members on Friday.

ALGA is keen to clarify whether the Commonwealth has begun the process of making the necessary changes to the legislation which governs the referendum process,” Ms Lewis said.

The latest round verbal jousting between ALGA and Mr Crean comes just days before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government sits in Sydney on Wednesday 20th February.

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