The Joint Select Committee on the Constitutional Recognition of Local Government has released its preliminary report, recommending that a referendum on financial recognition of local government be held at the same time as the 2013 Federal Election.

The Committee. Chaired by Michelle Rowland also recommended: 

  • that the referendum propose an amendment to Section 96 of the Constitution: …the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State or to any local government body formed by State or Territory legislation on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
  • that the Commonwealth Government begin all necessary preparatory activities to ensure a successful outcome for a referendum on financial recognition in 2013.

Federal Local Government Minister, Simon Crean, said that the Federal Government was ‘clear on its commitment’ to achieve constitutional recognition of local government.

"The Federal Government has been engaging with the states, local governments and bodies on its commitment to achieving constitutional recognition for local government,” Mr Crean said.

"We acknowledge further work needs to be done with the states to secure the necessary support for a successful referendum.”

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) welcomed the initial report, saying that the report clearly identifies the vulnerability of the existing direct payment system.

"We welcome the Committee's acknowledgment that the suggested words for a change to Section 96 of the Constitution to resolve financial uncertainty will not have implications for the state governments and their relationship with local government,” ALGA President Felicity Ann-Lewis said.

"Our concern is that delays in obtaining strong commitment from across the political spectrum at both the state and federal level, to a change to Section 96, have hampered efforts to finalise the requirements necessary for a successful referendum in 2013."

The Preliminary Report is available here.