(Нет, товарищ – No, Comrade)
Here is a list of Senators who voted against the Bill for a Constitutional Referendum advertised to “recognize local government”.
|Back, CJ (WA)||Bernardi, C (SA)|
|Bushby, DC (TAS)
||Eggleston, A (WA)|
|Fawcett, DJ (SA)
||Madigan, JJ (VIC)
|McKenzie, B (VIC)
||Smith, D (WA)|
They are the senators who not only understand federalism, but who also had the courage to vote to preserve it.
Senators Eric Abetz, Michaelia Cash, Richard Colbeck, Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Bill Heffernan, Brett Mason, Scott Ryan, Michael Ronaldson, David Johnson, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Sean Edwards, Helen Kroger and Stephen Parry felt it necessary to abstain. Some perhaps because their party alliances prevented them from voting against the bill.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced, perhaps too late; “If you are not fully persuaded, don’t vote for it, because our constitution is far too important to be trifled with.”
It’s a referendum that we wouldn’t be having if the Senate had done its job and refused to pass the Bill.
The Constitution established a Parliament of two houses; the House of Representatives where each member sitting (notionally) represents the voters of their electorate which has very approximately same number of voters as all the others; and the Senate in which the States are represented equally by an equal number of Senators for each State. The main purpose of the Senate is a check and balance on The Reps to try to ensure that all the States are treated fairly, regardless of population. The Senate is notionally and originally The States’ House; where the interests of the States (inherent in their sovereignty) are balanced; especially against the inevitable demands of the Commonwealth for more power. The States were, via the Senate, probably expected to keep a lid on excesses of government, especially if they had the potential to intrude on the sovereignty of the States.
Sovereignty is the ability to exercise authority over an area. To make laws and to enforce them. Australian Federation came about when sovereign States (then colonies) agreed to establish the Commonwealth of Australia under a Constitution; ceding some of their sovereign powers to the Commonwealth as defined narrowly by the Constitution.
Those who drafted the Constitution weren’t at all naive about the need to limit power so what some people see as impediments to lawmaking, are actually deliberate measures to prevent corruption by power for the sake of power. They did not however foresee the ability of party interests to over-ride those of State interests in the Senate.
One can view the Constitution as a contract; granted by the States, to the contractor; the Commonwealth, in order to do certain things as defined by the contract. In this instance, the ALP-“led” government has simply popped up with a bill for a referendum to change the contract under which it exists. A unilateral change to the contract for a “variation” in their favour. No negotiations with the States. No discussions.
The Constitutional changes as proposed allow the Federal Government to directly fund local government, with strings attached. Conditions that do not necessarily have anything to do with the target of the grant. e.g. Funding for a bridge may well be conditional on the council preserving 30% of its area as “natural habitat”.
Some politicians have argued that the local government can simply refuse to accept the grant if the conditions are onerous. Of course they won’t be onerous; at the beginning. (Fabian tactics.) After a while, when the local government has become addicted, they simply won’t care about prophylactics; their beautiful place has been built by making hundreds of small sacrifices; each of which didn’t individually seem to matter much at the time.
If the Constitution is changed as proposed, inevitable central planning will destroy the federal system in which the sovereignty of the States lends legitimacy to the Commonwealth assigning it certain things with the privilege to make rules (laws) necessary to make those things happen; through the contract called the Constitution. It is through that contract that the States agree that those laws outweigh any laws the State may make on those things. But only on those things.
The federal system has the inherent advantage of keeping those who make decisions close to the people and the things upon which those decisions impact. There is a small chance that they have a better instinctive understanding of the things they are supposed to govern. They are much more likely to get “reality checks” than those governing from a remote Kremlin, where all is right in the world as long as it’s according to policy.
The lack of time to educate the electorate (AEC reckons that it takes about 27 weeks) and to discuss the changes before the referendum should ring alarm bells. Rudd/Gillard/Rudd “governments” have hurried through half-baked legislation since taking office; much of it to Australia’s detriment. They appear to be unable to think things through, instead doggedly and with great haste pursuing ideologies in favour of realism and rational debate. They have often misrepresented the nature of legislation by giving it a “comfortable” title and publicity.
The proposed Constitutional change to “recognize local government” does almost nothing towards recognition. Instead, it opens up barn doors to abuse that will inevitably result in local government being no more than a branch office of federal government, doing the bidding of bureaucrats in another new, billion dollar office block in Canberra.
The date for the referendum has not yet been set. It has to be some Saturday between September the 14th and the end of October.
To make it easy; the right answer to the referendum question is NO
David Mitchell wrote an article for Quadrant Why Local Government Should Not Be Recognised in the Constitution published in 2012. He concluded:
Recognition of local government in the Australian Constitution has been rejected three times. The first was when the Constitution was drawn up, the second was at referendum under a Labor government in 1974 and the third was at a referendum under a Labor government in 1988. There is now an opportunity to appreciate the reasons for the three previous rejections, the reasons for now rejecting the proposal a fourth time and voting “No”.
For more comprehensive backgrounder on the subject, Professor of Constitutional Law, Anne Twomey at the University of Sydney offers this in-depth report. The report’s conclusion begins:
Perhaps the reason why the constitutional recognition of local government has proved difficult to achieve is that constitutional recognition is often regarded as an end in itself that lacks a cogent rationale. Most supporters of the campaign, who are by and large members of local government bodies, appear to think that constitutional recognition will improve their status and the respect accorded to local government and that it will give rise to rivers of gold. Yet, respect is earned by deeds, not by constitutional recognition, as most State governments would acknowledge.
As for the rivers of gold, they might yet turn to rivers of tears for local government bodies in the more populous areas if an equalisation approach to direct funding was taken by the Commonwealth as a consequence of a successful referendum. Funding would also most likely become tied to conditions that impose uniform Commonwealth policies on local government bodies, reducing their autonomy and their capacity to serve the particular interests of their own communities.