Local government is one of the most important levels of government. It is absolutely critical to the planning and the administration of municipal services.
That is why many have argued—since Gough Whitlam, indeed—that it should be recognised in our Constitution. On this side of the House we backed such a proposition in the last parliament, only to have it sabotaged by those on the other side.
If it were in the Constitution, the New South Wales government could not be doing what it is about to do in New South Wales, which is the egregious and antidemocratic act of forcing mergers on councils where neither the councils nor those they represent are interested in it. In my electorate of Throsby the merger of two councils—the Shellharbour council and its northern cousin the Wollongong council—has been proposed. It is said that this is about creating scale and efficiency. This cannot be true because there are three local councils in my electorate and it is not proposed to merge the smallest of them. In fact, all up and down the coast of New South Wales a lot of councils that are a lot smaller than Shellharbour and Wollongong are being left alone. It is an antidemocratic act.
This is why I attended a rally on Saturday where I said I cannot see how one job is going to be created by this proposal but I can see how lots of jobs will be lost. I am calling upon all Liberal MPs, in all houses of parliament, to use their vote to oppose these proposals.