Kristy McBain has flagged Constitutional recognition of local government as likely to be on the radar of a second-term Albanese Labor government.
Interviewed by a national media outlet this week, the Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister acknowledged councils have long campaigned for constitutional recognition, saying that “I think it will be a priority for this government”.
“But our priority for the first term is making sure we have an Indigenous voice to parliament recognised in our constitution.”
“We don’t want to muddy the waters on that very pertinent issue, so this [local government recognition] will have to take place down the track.”
In the interview, the Minister welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to include local government in the National Cabinet meeting of state, territory, and federal leaders.
While it would only be for one meeting a year, she said that meeting would be entirely devoted to local government.
“They deserve a voice in National Cabinet, and I’m pleased that in that first meeting, everyone agreed to one whole meeting being dedicated to the local government sector and having the President of ALGA there,” she said.
Asked about criticism of the former Coalition government for giving grants to grassroots organisations that arguably were in the purview of local government, Ms McBain said the federal government “has a role to play” in funding infrastructure.
“It is especially hard for regional, rural and remote councils to raise their own revenue, so the federal government should be assisting with community-building initiatives. It should be assisting with sporting infrastructure and cultural infrastructure,” she said.
“But we should also be allowing those communities to tell us what they need, rather than having specific tied grant funding. There is a fine balance between untied and tied grant funding and we need to work with the sector on that.”