Federal Minister for Regional Develoment and Local Government Simon Crean has announced the creation of an expert advisory panel to lead a ‘national discussion’ on a referendum on recognising local government in the Australian Constitution.


The announcement by Mr Crean at the Australian Local Government Association’s (ALGA) National General Assembly follows Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s campaign promise to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of local government.


The announcement was welcomed by ALGA President Genia McCaffery who said that constitutional recognition would reaffirm local government’s position in Australian political life.


"Local government plays a vitally important role in the day-to-day lives of the Australian people, but what many Australians do not realise is that local government is the only level of government not recognised in the Australian Constitution," Ms McCaffery said.


"Including local government in the Australian Constitution will help to protect local services that we take for granted and ensure that councils have the funding security to provide the level of services that local communities need and deserve."


Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced that former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, the Honourable James Spigelman AC, will chair the panel


“Changes to our Constitution have, and always will be, the prerogative of the Australian people which is why consultation on possible options is an important step,”  Mr McClelland said.


The Panel has identified its terms of reference as follows:


  • the level of support for constitutional recognition among stakeholders and in the general community; and
  • options for that recognition.


The Expert Panel will consider the benefits and risks of the different options as well as outcomes that may be achieved for key stakeholders through constitutional recognition of local government.


In conducting its inquiry, the members of the Expert Panel will consult:


  • Local governments and their representative bodies, including the Australian Council of Local Government and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA);
  • State and Territory governments;
  • Federal parliamentarians;
  • Subject matter experts, such as constitutional reform, local government and regional government experts; and
  • Interested members of the Australian community.


More information available here