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Labor calls for bipartisan support for constitutional recognition of local government.

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Sue Mackay - Labor Calls For Bipartisan Support For Constitutional Recognition Of Local Government //media/0901/smmsfsl070901.html Monday, 10 September 2001

Labor Calls For Bipartisan Support For Constitutional Recognition Of Local Government Sue Mackay - Shadow Minister for Local Government

Media Statement - 7 September 2001

Federal Shadow Minister Senator Sue Mackay called for bipartisan support both for constitutional recognition of local government and for Labor's "new federalism" approach of co-operation between Federal, State and Local governments, in her speech to the 1,000 delegates at the Local Government Association of Queensland's "Building Stronger Communities" conference in Townsville this week.

"The Centenary of Australia's Federation reminds us of the founders' commitment to a truly national approach to national issues, in which all parts of the country are treated equally, and are equally consulted," said Senator Mackay, the Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government.

"I urge you to support us in pursuing that goal, to get behind us in this Centenary of Federation year, to seize the opportunity to create a new federalism for the new century, and a new era for local government," she told delegates to the conference.

Senator Mackay said Labor has long held the goal of constitutional recognition for Local Government. "I call on the Coalition to either support this position, or not oppose it, particularly given the experience in 1988 when Labor put the issue of Local Government constitutional recognition to the people only to have it deliberately torpedoed by Peter Reith," she said.

In her speech, Senator Mackay urged all councils to approach their local Coalition candidates to get a clear "yes" or "no" on whether they support Constitutional recognition of local government.

"Both genuine federalism and constitutional recognition for Local Government are truly matters for bipartisanship. Labor has been pushing the notion of partnerships between all three levels of government for the last five years. It simply makes sense," she said.

"The further you go from metropolitan Australia, the less people are interested in the arbitrary differentiation of government. All they are interested in services, delivered effectively and efficiently."

Senator Mackay said the ALP was committed to Local Government as a crucial institution and critically important level of government within Australia.

"Labor recommitted to a new era for Local Government at the ALP National Conference last year. The Policy Platform that emerged from the Conference forms the foundation for the election policies we will take to the next federal election; and provides a firm basis for rebuilding the intergovernmental relationship," Senator Mackay said.

"Labor's vision in this Centenary year is for a fresh approach to federalism that incorporates a strong and integral role for Local Government, and a cooperative relationship with State and Federal governments.

"We want to build communities cooperatively, through productive partnerships. To this end at the national level we will revitalise the Council of Australian Governments, so that governments can better work together, to deliver scarce resources in the most effective and equitable manner. This will put Local Government, so closely attuned to the needs of communities, in a much stronger position to meet community needs," Senator Mackay said.

"Given the Coalition's long-standing position that Local Government is a 'creature of the States', it is blatant hypocrisy for Local Government Minister Senator Ian Macdonald to belatedly become a staunch advocate of downgrading the role of the States.

"Senator Macdonald, like the rest of his Coalition colleagues, is being 'mean and tricky' on the issue of federalism. I call on him to stop playing games and support Labor's bipartisan challenge.

"A Federal Labor Government in partnership with other Labor Governments would provide a 'once in a one-hundred-year opportunity' for a new approach to federalism.

"The potential level of intergovernmental cooperation ahead is not a threat, but an opportunity. It is a political reality that this presents a unique opportunity for building a new cooperative federalism between the three levels of government," Senator Mackay said today. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.