NO MORE POWER TO CANBERRA

by on 29 May, 2013


BTRWe need to oppose Council Recognition, writes Brant Rippon

The Gillard Labor Government has announced a referendum on the recognition of Local Governments within the Constitution of Australia to be held in conjunction with the election on September 14.

As Michelle Grattan highlighted on Friday, there are those on both sides of politics that do not want to see the referendum held – at least, not on September 14. ALP power brokers think it is an ‘extra burden in an election where Labor has almost nothing going for it’.

Back on the ‘right’ side of politics, Tony Abbott has begrudgingly inherited backing for the change, which has been Coalition policy for some time. Many Coalition members and supporters have highlighted the fact that a referendum on September 14 will muddy the proverbial waters. For September 14, Coalition supporters should want the second Saturday in September to be solely a vote on Government. A vote to get the nation back on track. A vote of no confidence in this inept Labor Government that has broken so many promises and left Australians with a mountain of debt and increased costs of living. The Howard era certainly was the halcyon days.

Strategically, the Coalition will want the electorate focused on the negatives and broken promises of the Rudd/Gillard Governments, and not be distracted with a referendum. As Coalition campaign advisors have said, the Coalition should and will be 'campaigning at the election to change the government, not the constitution'.

To borrow a Boswellian phrase, the Australian Monarchist League will be 'manning the barricades' for the NO campaign. You might at first think, 'why would an organisation whose main ethos is to protect the Crown be involved in a referendum on council recognition?'

The League's mission statement is 'Australians protecting the Australian flag, the Australian Crown, and the Australian Constitution.' The primary purpose of the Australian Monarchist League is to educate and inform the Australian public on Australia's history and particularly on the Australian Constitution.

Established in Australia in 1943 as a pressure group for upholding the educational and cultural aspects of our constitutional monarchy, AML has today morphed into a significant and effective 'not-for-profit' voluntary organisation which lobbies State and Federal governments to reverse decades of 'republicanism by stealth'. We consider the appropriate recognition of our Sovereign, Royal Family and traditional institutions, the upholding of the principles of the Westminster System and the maintenance of the concept of competitive federalism on which the Commonwealth was founded, as essential aspects of our system.

The League will be opposing the referendum on two fronts:

(1) Lack of time: According to reports, the Australian Electoral Commission has indicated that it requires a minimum of 27 weeks to properly prepare the arguments for YES and NO cases. There are fewer than 15 weeks remaining to the election and the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill, although drafted, has not even been introduced into the parliament. Our main hope is that the Coalition will conduct a well-funded NO case and this is what we are lobbying for. However, whatever happens, the League will be there doing its best to protect the integrity of our Australian Constitution.

We are also in touch with other organisations to co-ordinate our activities. With the shortage of time, every hand to the wheel counts.

(2) Centralisation of Power: There is clearly a divide over the referendum and whether to support it within the Coalition.   WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith said last week that recognition would "distort the federal structure, give rise to unforeseen and unintended consequences and will lead to an eventual eclipse of the states and their eventual irrelevance as a balance against the centralist power of the Commonwealth".

The Australian Monarchist League echoes Senator Smith's views. A YES vote could result in undermining the very existence of the States. It has long been Labor Party policy to erode the viability of the states by slowly centralising power to Canberra via years of scope creep, much like the 'republicanism by stealth' campaign that has existed over recent decades. It should be noted however that the Howard government was no better in regards to the 'Canberraisation' process.

The League has proceeded to lobby members of the Federal and State parliaments very successfully with a number of politicians coming out to pressure the Federal Coalition party to oppose the referendum. A leading member of the Coalition front-bench has written to the League to say: "May I take the opportunity of personally encouraging you in this campaign."

A member of the Newman Government wrote to AML saying, "I certainly note that there is divided opinion in the community on this issue. With respect, there are much more important issues at stake for the nation in this election. I cannot speak on behalf of the Coalition, however I know that I, and many others do share your view." Queensland Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said the state is not sure whether the wording would allow a federal government to go beyond simply funding. "If it comes with the ability to control, I'm scared".

At this stage, both the Western Australian and Victorian Liberal Councils have voted to incorporate a NO vote in their HTV cards on 14 September.

The League is in the process of setting up a referendum website nomorepowertocanberra.info which should be operative in coming days. We call on all conservatives to lobby their local Coalition member, Senator or candidate to not support the passage of the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill through parliament.

Not only has there been a serious lack of public consultation from the Commonwealth Government over recognition of councils, but if there is one thing that this inept Labor Government has proven over the past six years is that the last thing Australians need is more power gifted to Canberra.

Brant Rippon is the State Chairman of the Australian Monarchist League’s Queensland Branch

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