9 May 2013

Funding referendum launched by PM

1:44 pm on 9 May 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has launched a "yes" campaign for a referendum designed to ensure federal funds can flow directly to local governments.

As well as voting in the federal election on 14 September, voters will be asked to decide whether councils and shires should be recognised in the Australian Constitution.

The ABC reports the question has been put to voters twice before, in 1974 and 1988, but both times it was rejected.

Ms Gillard said there is a better chance of success this time because the change has bipartisan support.

"This referendum will be presented in a bipartisan spirit; the Leader of the Opposition has indicated he is prepared to support such a referendum" she said.

However, former Liberal minister Peter Reith, who led the successful campaign for a 'no' vote in 1988 has urged the Opposition to oppose the change.

"It's a complete waste of money," he said. "Australia has an excellent Constitution ... there is absolutely nothing stopping the federal governments funding local governments through state governments."