2013 Local Government Referendum » Power In Many Hands
An article by John Brett, member of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy - Toowoomba Branch
The coming referendum invites a review of our once beneficial federal system of government. The federal government was the invention of the then independent states. The states need was for a continental system to manage those functions that applied to the whole of geographical Australia, such as defence, postage, the new telegraph system, shipping & navigation, national territorial survey, territories, external political affairs etc.
After federation air navigation, radio communication, national roads and now cyberspace were their legitimate concern and domain.
Land division and tenure was left in control of the states, as they were still taking over from the previous Church administration of Parish divisions, along natural boundaries, names and functions that remain to this day. Shires and municipalities and cities remained in place and name, until the recent introduction of Gough Whitlam’s proposed new regions, which has removed from our memory the original names.
Shires and municipalities, the territorial divisions of a state, functioned as the working arm of state governments, able to make their own By-Laws to facilitate local requirements with prompt application. The citizens’ needs and concerns were exercised through their immediate councillor, who, for better or worse, “in Council” elected our Mayor. Municipalities and shire infrastructures were financed by their state governments, before and until the advent of the new Federal Governments new Commonwealth Bank, which opened for “business” in 1913 , which for the next 10 years supplied all the infrastructure money for Local government.
Before federation the various states’ money requirements were created by the private banks that also issued their own notes and coins. After 1913 there was only one national note and coin issue bearing the name of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with the new federal treasurer’s signature attached.
Somewhere around this time Shires and Municipalities took on the collective name of “Local Government”, now known almost entirely by this name. Their main function was, and is still, the administration of land division and tenure, collecting the rates required for administering this function. Their functions grew with our requirements and requests. The land division for new suburban houses required roads and water drainage. Water storage and reticulation, together with gas reticulation followed as the prime responsibilities of Local Government. Later came garbage collection and sewage disposal and electricity reticulation.
This organic growth of decentralised government from the individual up, serving each individual in its various spheres and capacities, propelled Australia from an uncivilised dry land into one of the most successful nations in history, all in under 150 years. It was never done before and cannot be repeated, but it will all be turned on its head if all the powers and functions carefully constructed through trial and error through its successful division of powers of the three spheres is turned over to the one central government.
Talk to the people in rural and distant regions of China and Russia about how they have to deal with the omnipotent central government in Moscow or Beijing, when their garbage is not collected or their water is poisoned or they want a wage rise in sympathy with their commissars!
Surrendering the major dynamic of power to one central government will bring the same disastrous results it has brought elsewhere to the individual and his first line of accessible representative government. Finance together with the Lie are two of the only three dynamics of power available to Government, Finance being the major dynamic of world power. The old maxim of “Power in many hands is power in safe hands” is still the watchword of freedom.
The stated problem of current Local Government Councillors is that they have not enough money to maintain existing infrastructure or construct new infrastructure. This is a financial problem, not a constitutional problem. Asking a federal government to solve this, by taking them into the federal system , will give the central government greater power with the ability to discriminate between Councils. Our Local Government could end up receiving less money, not more. This new power would give an incumbent government enormous vote winning power. No government would hesitate to leave a Council in a safe seat deprived, in order to buy representation in a marginal seat.
But even that argument rests on the false assumption there is a limited supply of money. Money having no substance can only be limited by those whose responsibility it is to create the nations money supply. We need always to remember when we go to war, to kill and destroy, there is never a shortage of money!
Like the demand for a republic, there is no mass grass roots movement in this country asking for a referendum to allow us to surrender our most vital last influence and control of our local government. The impetus comes from somewhere else.
If this referendum is lost there are no consequences, which will not be the case if it is won. The Whitlam attempt in 1974 was stopped by a 53% No vote, then the Hawke attempt in 1988 was stopped by a 66% No vote. Let us hope the Rudd attempt is defeated by a 75% No vote!
John Brett 2/8/2013