The thawing continent: The changing role of local government in a people's federation

Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
A People's Federation for the 21st Century, 2017
Issue Date:
2017-01-30
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One could be forgiven for thinking that the ‘Terms of Reference’ (ToR) for the Reform of the Federation White Paper released in June 2014 might have foreshadowed the expansion of the comparatively limited remit of Australian local government. In particular, the suggestion that the allocation of roles and responsibilities might be made with regard to the principle of ‘subsidiarity, whereby responsibility lies with the lowest level of government possible, allowing flexible approaches to improving outcomes’ territories appeared to presage a level of decentralisation far greater than that of the states, or at least a sustained investigation of the possibilities in this regard. If this course had been taken, the White Paper process could have engaged with the longstanding debates concerning regionalisation and regionalism in Australia, within which the subject of local government has necessarily formed an element. However, the subsequent Discussion Paper devoted just half a page to local government’s position in a document spanning 121 pages, with a clear presumption that state and territory governments were to remain the lowest level of government to be considered by process writ large, thereby consigning the cynical amongst us to infer that under this particular White Paper process Australia was destined to remain ‘the frozen continent’. This was resoundingly confirmed by the Turnbull Government’s discontinuation of the White Paper process.
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