COUNCILS MAY RUN
POLICE, SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS
Sunday Mail 05 May 2002
Local councils would run police forces,
hospitals and schools under a radical federal government plan, slashing the
power of the states.
The Howard Government has moved to set
up an inquiry into the possibility of adopting a United States style system
of government where councils would take over essential services.
The proposal will set the Government
on a collision course with the nation’s state governments, all of which are
Federal Local Government Minister
Wilson Tuckey said the plan would improve service delivery to communities.
Mr Tuckey said local councils were closer to the community and more accountable than ‘remote” state governments.
“I think it’s time Australia
looked at this. I have a vision pretty close to the US model,” he said. “It
would improve services to the community and give them someone to blame if
things went wrong.’
Mr Tuckey said the
Government was willing to bypass the states and directly fund local councils
to carry out the services.
The proposal drew opposite responses from men representing the two levels of government in Queensland.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley, who oversees the biggest local council in the country, was all for the proposal.
“I am delighted that John Howard has finally listened to me,” he said. “For 11 years I have been calling for a review of the way we are governed. “We are over-governed. The three tiers of government do not work.”
But Cr Soorley said Mr Tuckey should “shut his mouth” and not seek to politicise the argument. “The Federal and State Governments have both been ripping people off for years,” he said. “Let’s not start pointing the finger. Let’s sit down and have a sensible debate about the system of government in this country.”
Premier Peter Beattie was far from
enthusiastic. “The cost would be horrendous,” he said. “It would just not work.” He said
the proposal was a cost-shifting exercise. “Canberra would do nothing
financially and without increased funds local government would go broke,”
The House of
economics committee will run the inquiry under the chairmanship of
Victorian MP David Hawker. The terms of reference are awaiting approval from
Treasurer Peter Costello, who is understood to support the plan.
Australian Local Government Association senior vice-president Lynn Mason said many councils would be capable of providing the services if they had funding.
A referendum probably would be needed to provide formal constitutional
recognition of local government for the plan to go ahead.
But Mr Tuckey said that even without a
successful referendum, the Federal Government already had the power and money
to hand over service delivery to local councils.
If the states tried to obstruct the plan, councils could be given local police powers through the Australian Federal Police.
Mr Tuckey said councils could ask for a share of GST revenue to help fund the
Mr Tuckey said the proposals applied as much to city councils as regional ones.