Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12876


Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (18:34): I move:

(1) a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government be appointed to inquire into and report on the majority finding (financial recognition) of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government including by amending section 96 of the Constitution, and in conducting its inquiry, the Committee will assess the likelihood of success of a referendum on financial recognition, and will take into account the following matters:

   (a) the report of the Expert Panel on constitutional recognition of Local Government, including preconditions set by the Expert Panel for the holding of a referendum;

   (b) the level of State and Territory support;

   (c) the potential consequences for Local Government, States and Territories of such an amendment; and

   (d) any other matters that the Committee considers may be relevant to a decision on whether to conduct a referendum, and the timing of any referendum;

(2) the Committee consist of twelve members, three Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Government Whip or Whips, three Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Opposition Whip or Whips, and one non-aligned Member, two Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, two Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one Senator to be nominated by any minority group or groups or independent Senator or independent Senators;

(3) every nomination of a member of the Committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(4) the members of the Committee hold office as a Joint Select Committee until presentation of the Committee’s report or the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time, whichever is the earlier;

(5) the Committee elect:

   (a) Government Member as Chair; and

   (b) an Opposition Member as its Deputy Chair who shall act as Chair of the Committee at any time when the Chair is not present at a meeting of the Committee, and at any time when the Chair and Deputy Chair are not present at a meeting of the Committee the members present shall elect another member to act as Chair at that meeting;

(6) in the event of an equally divided vote, the Chair, or the Deputy Chair when acting as Chair, has a casting vote;

(7) three members of the Committee constitute a quorum of the Committee provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government Member of either House, and one non Government Member of either House;

(8) the Committee has power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any subcommittee any matter which the Committee is empowered to examine;

(9) the Committee appoint the Chair of each subcommittee who shall have a casting vote only and at any time when the Chair of a subcommittee is not present at a meeting of the subcommittee the members of the subcommittee present shall elect another member of that subcommittee to act as Chair at that meeting;

(10) two members of a subcommittee constitute the quorum of that subcommittee, provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government Member of either House and one non Government Member of either House;

(11) members of the Committee who are not members of a subcommittee may participate in the proceedings of that subcommittee but shall not vote, move any motion or be counted for the purpose of a quorum;

(12) the Committee or any subcommittee:

   (a) has power to call for witnesses to attend and for documents to be produced;

   (b) may conduct proceedings at any place it sees fit; and

   (c) has power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the Senate and the House of Representatives;

(13) the Committee may report from time to time but that it present a preliminary report no later than December 2012 if possible, and a final report no later than February 2013;

(14) the provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders; and

(15) a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.

I move this motion to establish a joint select committee to enquire further into constitutional recognition of local government. This is an amended version of the motion I placed on the Notice Paper on 11 October. Since that first notice of motion I have had discussions with the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for local government. I thank both of them for their engagement and support for this process. The government has also had constructive discussions with the Leader of the Australian Greens. The process of getting this motion to the chamber has been one of bipartisanship and cooperation.

As a consequence, we have amended the original motion to now include an opposition member as deputy chair of the committee and have increased the membership to 12 to include one Greens senator. My original motion also contained words referring the committee to examine 'the level of support within the Commonwealth parliament'; however, given the discussions I have had with the opposition, and the Leader of the Opposition in particular, I am convinced that we can achieve strong bipartisan support in this parliament for the majority view of the Spiegelman expert panel—that is, financial recognition of local government. Indeed, in the terms of reference we have asked the committee to focus on that finding and assess the likelihood of its success should it be put to a referendum.

The support of this parliament itself will not be sufficient to carry the referendum. For that it also requires the state and territory governments to embrace bipartisanship, and local government must play a more activist role both through and beyond this committee process to lobby their respective state and territory governments for that support.

Consideration by a parliament committee was also one of the preconditions outlined in the Spiegelman panel report. The committee will be able to inquire into that majority finding of the expert panel and assess the likelihood of success of a referendum, including the level of support and the potential consequences of an amendment to the Constitution.

We have asked the committee to aim to provide a preliminary report by the end of the year and a final report to parliament by the end of February 2013.

We do have to recognise that the recognition of local government in the Constitution is an issue of national importance, given the vital role local government now plays in Australian communities as the third tier of government and given the expanded role and crossover activities that local government is involved in in the delivery of services—be they state, federal or a combination of both.

I have found in my role as minister for regional development that there is also an increasing expectation, because of this overlap, that the three levels of government work together more effectively in creative ways to deliver outcomes for their communities. But if that is to be achieved we need to create a secure financial environment in order to grow and sustain partnership initiatives and to deliver that expanded role.

From our point of view, the government has not wavered in its commitment to constitutional recognition of local government. Indeed, I would observe that both major parties have committed themselves to this in their policy platforms. The committee will be an important mechanism for gathering further support for a referendum, and the Australian Local Government Association is fully supportive of a parliamentary committee to further inquire into this issue. Indeed, it was a specific recommendation in their submission to the expert panel.

Previous referenda on this issue were put in 1974 and 1988, both promoted by Labor governments. They were not carried, because they lacked a bipartisan commitment, being opposed by those who were then opposite in this chamber and some states. Now that the Spiegelman report is out we are acting on a key recommendation in a bipartisan manner through this motion. The challenge is for the proponents of the referendum to make their case, both inside and outside the committee.

I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.