GOULBURN Mulwaree councillors have refused to pay the Local Government and Shires Association (LGSA) nearly $15,000 in contributions to help fund an advertising campaign to support a possible referendum to gain constitutional recognition for of local governments.
The association hopes the referendum will be held in conjunction with the September 14 federal election.
The government is currently waiting on a report from the parliamentary standing committee before it makes up its mind on whether or not to push forward with the ballot but if it does and the motion is accepted, it will allow councils direct access to commonwealth funding for the first time in our nation’s history.
The campaign – being run through the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) – will cost ratepayers across Australia more than $10 million dollars.
Referendums, however, don’t have a good track record of delivering results. In 2012, councillors voted not to support the campaign, labelling it as “a big waste” and wrote to the ALGA suggesting it develop “an alternative and practical approach”. They didn’t listen and pushed ahead with the campaign anyway. The only response Council got to their query was an invoice.
Now, councillors are anteing up and refusing to foot the bill. A motion to do so was unanimously passed at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mayor Geoff Kettle told thePost that while he was personally in favour of constitutional recognition he questioned why they were being invoiced for contributions to a campaign they never supported.
He said they would again be writing to the LGSA and telling them they wouldn’t pay.
General Manager Chris Berry warned councillors that a condition of being part of the LGSA was financially supporting their campaigns. He suggested it may also lead to a situation where they were told to either pay up or risk being expelled from the organisation.
When the Post contacted LGSA president Cr Keith Rhoades, he said he respected Council’s decision and that it was their democratic right not to pay. He said the Association was hopeful that the referendum would gain government support but they wouldn’t know for sure until late March.
If the bid is unsuccessful all money collected from councils will be returned.
Alternatively, if it is successful the LGSA will write to Goulburn Mulwaree asking them to re3consider its position.