Referendum cancellation ‘disappointing’

Cara TregonningPilbara News
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The cancellation of a referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution is disappointing, according to Shire of Roebourne president Fiona White-Hartig.

Last month the council made a decision to support the proposed amendment to the Constitution, to acknowledge the Federal Government’s role in granting financial assistance to local government.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ruled out a referendum alongside the Federal election when he announced September 7 as the election date last Sunday.

A Bill to hold the referendum passed Parliament on June 24, but electoral and constitutional laws meant the earliest it could be held alongside a Federal election was September 14, the polling day set by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Ms White-Hartig said changes to the constitution would have secured Federal funding to the Shire.

“We recognise the need for local government to be recognised in the constitution to enable us to receive funds directly from the Federal Government so it is disappointing that the referendum is not proceeding,” she said.

Ms White-Hartig said Federal funding supported the Shire’s new infrastructure programs, road developments and the Roads to Recovery program.

The Australian Local Government Association president Felicity- ann Lewis said ALGA had launched a Yes campaign in anticipation of a 2013 referendum.

“We are extremely disappointed to learn that Prime Minister Rudd has selected an election date which means the referendum on recognising local government in the Constitution can not be held,” she said.

“Much campaign planning and implementation has already begun in every community in preparation for the referendum, and we hope that this will not be wasted.

“We look forward to picking up where we left off when a new referendum date is announced.”

Ms White-Hartig said the council would continue to support ALGA’s campaigning activities while Shire of Ashburton president Kerry White said council had planned to discuss their position on the referendum at their next meeting in Onslow on August 21.

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