Strengthening Democratic Processes

The ALGA 2014-17 Strategic Plan identifies work on strengthening democratic process as a strategic priority.

A strong and financially-sustainable local government sector is a critical component to Australia’s democratic system of government. Local government is the third level of government in the Australian Federation and is responsible for the governance of the local municipality and the provision of a range of critical services and infrastructure that contribute to the quality of life and wellbeing of citizens across Australia.

The services and facilities provided by local government include, but are not limited to: local roads; parks and gardens; waste management services; sport; arts; culture; recreation; childcare; aged care; provision of libraries; drug and alcohol; and housing and homelessness. Local government is also involved in a wide range of community development activities such as community relations, social cohesion, health promotion and citizen engagement. As owners and managers of more than 80 per cent of Australia’s national road network, local governments are also critical partners in the provision of national freight infrastructure.

While local government is not currently mentioned in the Australian Constitution, it is recognised in the majority of state and territory Constitutions. In 2007, ALGA undertook a campaign to achieve Constitutional recognition of local government and secured a commitment from the Government to conduct a referendum to confirm the capacity of the Commonwealth to make direct payments to local government. The referendum was to be held at the same time as the 2013 Federal election; however, as the Government called an early Federal election, the referendum was not able to be conducted.

As the political momentum for Constitutional change by the Australian Government has changed, ALGA will continue to seek opportunities and advocate for appropriate legal certainty of direct Commonwealth payments to local government.

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