Mayor Pyefinch backs change

BUNDABERG Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch has backed a recommendation to the Federal Government that local governments be recognised in the Constitution.

An expert panel to study the issues was set up after an agreement between Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Greens and crossbenchers Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie and Rob Oakeshott last year that enabled her to form minority government.

The panel has now recommended that a referendum be held in 2013.

Cr Pyefinch has welcomed the move and said recognising local government in the Constitution would ensure direct funding of important programs by the Federal Government would be preserved.

Under the Constitution as it now stands, the only way the Federal

Government can provide funding is to give it to the State Government for redistribution to local councils, with some rare exceptions such as the Roads to Recovery program.

Cr Pyefinch said she would like to see more direct funding in place.

"Councils have proved that by funding councils directly, the Federal Government gets a very good result," she said.

"If local government is written in as another layer of government, it provides good services to people."

There have already been two attempts to get local government included in the Constitution.

In 1974, a referendum that included a provision for local governments to receive and borrow money from the Federal Government got only 46.85% support.

In 1988, an attempt to recognise local government in the Constitution won just 33.62% of the vote.

But Cr Pyefinch said neither of those questions was well drafted.

She said local councils were being underfunded right across the board.

"We have already seen the state withdraw funding from various programs," she said.



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