Greg Hallam has been a vocal supporter of constitutional recognition for councils.
Greg Hallam has been a vocal supporter of constitutional recognition for councils. Lee Constable

Queensland councils angered by Rudd referendum snub

QUEENSLAND councils have been left gutted by  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's decision not to honour the Federal Parliament's commitment to hold a referendum to recognise local government.

Local Government Association of Queensland President Margaret de Wit said the referendum had the overwhelming support of the Parliament yet Mr Rudd had chosen not to proceed.

The LGAQ's Greg Hallam described it as 'rubbish' suggestions by Mr Rudd that the poll could not go ahead because it did not have the support of Tony Abbott and the Coalition.

Cr de Wit said everything had been in place for the referendum to be put and councils had invested enormous resources in ensuring there was a majority Yes vote.

'We say to Mr Rudd: this is one big bit of policy business you have chosen to leave unfinished before going to the polls,' she said.

'Opinion polls showed that Queenslanders were ready to support this referendum in big numbers so they are also entitled to feel disappointed by this act of political expediency. Timing was not an issue. Mr Rudd could have gone ahead with this referendum if he wanted to.'

Cr de Wit said the LGAQ would work with the Australian Local Government Association to ensure that both Labor and the Coalition recommitted to holding the referendum in the next parliamentary term.

Julian Leeser, Convenor of the Citizens 'No' campaign, said it the local government should hand back the millions spent on its campaign.

"The Australian Local Government Association took $10 million from local communities to run this referendum campaign and another $10 million from taxpayers. The referendum did not proceed, it's time to hand the public's money back,'' he said in a statement on Monday.

"Ratepayers gave that $10 million to Councils to fund local services, not a political campaign. Every single dollar should be handed back from the local government lobby group to ratepayers to help local communities and local services".

"The 'NO' case never took the $500,000 of Federal money allocated to it".

"This referendum fell over because Kevin Rudd realised public support was declining day-by-day".

"The first poll showed this referendum had more than 70 per cent support, it quickly declined to 53 per cent and then 47 per cent as a direct consequence of the Citizens' 'NO' campaign against Canberra's power grab".

"The defeat of this referendum is a victory for citizens standing up against Canberra politicians and bureaucrats. It's genuinely a citizen David versus Canberra and lobbyist goliath win".

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