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Minister announces Government to proceed with development of self government in A.C.T.



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THE MINISTER FOR THE

CAPITAL TERRITORY

30*

The Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr. Bob

Ellicott, announced today that the Government had decided to

proceed with the development of self-government in the Australian

Capital Territory subject to the electors of the Territory agreeing

to, the proposal at a referendum. -

Mr. Ellicott said the referendum v/ould be held in

association with the deferred elections for the Legislative Assembl

No date had been fixed for the election but it would be

held before Christmas this y e a r .

Mr. Ellicott said the Government proposed that at the

referendum the electors would be asked to indicate their order of

preference for the following proposals:-

1) That self-government be granted to the A.C.T. .

broadly in accordance with the steps 'set out in the

proposals published by the Government for the

purposes of the referendum.

2) That a locally elected legislative body be established

in the A.C.T. with local government-type legislative

and executive functions.

3) That the present arrangements for governing the

A.C.T. should continue.

The first proposal was designed to find out whether

electors favoured a phased introduction of self-government with an

initial handover of most of the functions presently performed by

the Department of the Capital Territory. The major exception

would be land control which would remain with the Government.

Λ

Such functions as education and health would be

by the Government initially but would be handed over at a subseque

stage. It was not intended that the National Capital Development

Commission and the other functions reserved to the Commonwealth

in the proposal made public last year would be handed over..

The second proposal offered the option of confining the

handover of legislative and executive, p o w e r 'to local government­

, type functions while the third proposal permitted electors to vote

for a continuation of the existing arrangements for governing the

Territory.

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Mr. Elli c o t t said that in considering the ques t i o n of

s e lf-government for the A ustralian Capital T e r ritory the Gov.ernn^i

had taken into a ccount the views e x p ressed since the release for

public debate and comment of the "Proposals for C o n s titutional

Development in the Austr a l i a n Capital Territory" by the former • C

Minister Mr. Staley.

If a majority of the votes cast (after distribution of

preferences if necessary) favoured the first proposal, it would

mean that Canberra residents would, at an early date, have

control, through their elected representatives, of major areas

of administration such as government housing operations, transport

services, city management, welfare services, consumer protection,

recreational and cultural acitivities, the Canberra Public Library

service and appropriate State and municipal taxing functions. ^

A majority vote for the second proposal would mean that

only the functions funded from the Municipal Account, would be

handed over.

Mr. Ellicott said it was clear from the reaction to the

proposals released last year that· the financial implications of

self-government were a major concern of A.C.T. residents. The

Government had decided to enunciate several principles relating to

financial matters because it felt that it was important for the

local community to have a clearer understanding at this stage of

the financial arrangements upon which it was proposed self-governme;

should be based.

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The Government recognised that the basis of the

Commonwealth/State financial arrangements was not entirely

appropriate to the A.C.T. situation. It was accepted therefore

that the maintenance of the standards of"the physical features of

Canberra which resulted from it being planned and constructed as t

National Capital should remain a Commonwealth responsibility. ' . .r

, The local c o m m u n i t y w o u l d c o n t r i b u t e no more than the

proportion" of the costs of m a i n t a i n i n g those stan d a r d s w h i c h it

now paid. However, if the c o m m u n i t y w i s h e d to see h i g h e r standar

they w o u l d have to m e e t that cost. ■

For those o t h e r s t a n d a r d s and services w h i c h did not

relate d i r e c t l y to C a n b e r r a ' s status as the N a t i o n a l Capi t a l

the C o m m o n w e a l t h would, a f t e r a t r a n s i t i o n a l p e r i o d of 5 years,

only p r o v i d e a s s i s t a n c e by way of g r a n t for a .level of service

c o m p a r a b l e to that p r o v i d e d in the States. f

The G o v e r n m e n t had d e c i d e d that the C o m m o n w e a l t h G r ants ¥

Commission would be involved in r e c o m m e n d i n g the level of .grant.

Mr. Ellic o t t said it was neither possible nor appropriate

to announce full details of how the new legislative and financial

arrangements would work if either.of the first two proposals was

a d o p t e d . These were matters which should properly be determined

in consultation with the new Legislative A s s e m b l y . It should be

clearly u n d e r s t o o d , h o w e v e r , that what was proposed was a delegatic

of Common w e a l t h authority and any legislation w ould n e c e ssarily

include safeguards to protect the national - i n t e r e s t .

The A.C.T. Police was not included in the transfer

proposals because of the already an n o u n c e d decision of the

G overnment to e s t ablish the A ustralian Federal Police F o r c e .

. Mr. E l l i c o t t said he had instr u c t e d his D e p a r t m e n t to

proceed with the preparation of legislation to enable a refer e n d u m

to be held this year.

A detailed statement of the G o v e r n m e n t 's .proposals would

also be prepared so that the subject could be fully debated before

the referendum. ■

24.8.78