Labor tightens their fist and backpedal on local council de-amalgamation support

Today in Parliament, Abigail spoke in support of the Greens Local Government Amendment (De-Amalgamation Plebiscites) Bill, which Labor championed when in opposition and have now rejected since coming into power. Classic.

Abigail said:

I support the outstanding work of my colleague Dr Amanda Cohn, who has brought the Government kicking and screaming to finally do something about the de‑amalgamation of local councils by introducing the Local Government Amendment (De‑amalgamation Plebiscites) Bill 2023. Of course, Labor talked a lot this about when it was in opposition, but now that it has decided it does not want to pay for those de‑amalgamations to occur it has wound back its fervent support for local democracy. I am incredibly proud to share a party with Dr Amanda Cohn, who has spent a considerable amount of time working across the State and very closely with those councils that would be impacted by the bill. She has diligently reflected their wishes in the bill. Given that she has forced the Government to produce its own bill, I am incredibly disappointed that the response to her bill has been so turgid. The Minister for Local Government spent a significant proportion of his second reading speech on his bill criticising The Greens' bill.

I really do not see why that is necessary. But, importantly, it has confirmed that we would not have seen legislative reform on the matter had it not been for the effort of my colleague in drafting and introducing the bill before us. The Minister made some relatively trivial criticisms of the process proposed by the bill. The Greens have taken that in good faith and foreshadowed some amendments. If those amendments pass, they would completely resolve all of the issues that the Minister for Local Government has professed to be so concerned about. Firstly, the amendments would provide a role for the expertise of the Local Government Boundaries Commission in developing the cases for and against the reconstitution of a former local government area, in consultation with impacted communities.

Secondly, the amendments would harmonise the clause relating to the plebiscite with the Government's own proposed mechanism in its bill to clarify that a majority of the total number of enrolled electors in the former area is required for a successful plebiscite, which would avoid the extremely unlikely hypothetical situation described by the Minister where as few as 100 people could decide the future of a local government area if a large number of people did not vote in the plebiscite. With the resolution of those incredibly minor issues, and notwithstanding the unfounded and unprofessional approach of the Minister for Local Government towards my colleague and her bill, The Greens look forward to the support of the Government in progressing this important and overdue reform and explaining to the people of New South Wales why, after all of their years lobbying against amalgamation, it is not now going to live up to all of its promises in full.

 

The House then voted against reading the bill a second time.

Read the debate in Hansard here.

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