If there is one thing Australians can bet their bottom dollar on, it’s that the September 14 referendum on local government recognition is not about the “dignity” of local councillors. More dubiously, it is about megalomaniacs in Canberra, who have just rammed the Bill through both Houses of Parliament, securing power to bypass the states and fund local government to apply federal policy.
What is particularly concerning is the blatantly biased way in which taxpayers’ money is being used to advance a particular outcome. An unprecedented $31.6 million of public funds has been allocated to the “yes” case, including $11.6 million for the heavily skewed “national civics education campaign” which the government admitted will push the “yes” case.
Yet the “no” case is to receive a measly half a million dollars. Surely the significant number of Members and Senators who stood up for our Constitution and against this referendum demonstrates that there should be equal funding for the “no” case?
As if this was not bad enough, the politicians have ensured that Australians receive as little exposure to the “no” case as possible. The Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Bill was amended so that the crucial Yes/No booklet is no longer sent to every voter, but to every household which will ensure that it is treated as junk mail. Further, no longer will the Yes/No booklet utilise the traditional side-by-side format. Instead, the politicians have ensured that the “yes” case appears at the front of the booklet and the “no” case at the back where it is unlikely to be noticed.
With all this being the case, Australians must then ask themselves, why are the politicians, for the third time in fewer than 40 years, wasting taxpayers’ money trying to get this through? Why do they insist on keeping the people voting until, in their minds, they “get it right”?
Fortunately, showing great foresight, our founding fathers protected us from unwelcomed constitutional change by adopting the Swiss-style referendum.
This was by no means an attempt to make constitutional change impossible. Instead, it was to involve the people in the process and to require that all the details be determined in advance. They believed that we the people would then test the proposed change against three important criteria – that it be desirable, irresistible and inevitable. And any sane person would recognise that this referendum falls well and truly short in each area.
There are five serious concerns about local government being recognised as direct recipients of federal grants.
Let’s call a spade a spade; this referendum is not necessary, let alone irresistible.
Irresistible “reforms” are evidenced by such an overwhelming groundswell of support in the community that they cannot be ignored.
In this case, we are seeing an at-best unnecessary change, introduced by a flailing and desperate Gillard government.
There are only two things which are always inevitable – death and taxes.
What is inevitable about this “reform” is that it will result in increased taxes and rates.
Jai Martinkovits is a part of the Citizens’ “No” Campaign, www.nopowergrab.com.au. Follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.
[An edited version of this was first published in The Daily Telegraph, 28 June 2013. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/lopsided-financial-support-for-federal-referendum/story-fni0cwl5-1226671026195]
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