Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott. Chris Ison

Abbott calls on Labor for news of local govt referendum

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has called on the Federal Government to say whether it will hold a referendum on the question of including local government in the Constitution, while also being forced to defend his support of the idea.

The change would give the Commonwealth greater power to directly fund community projects, as well as protecting existing arrangements.

A parliamentary committee earlier this year found the referendum should go ahead on the condition the Australia Local Government Association succeeded in attracting public support for the change.

While the idea has bipartisan support at federal level, most of the states remain opposed.

Mr Abbott said it was up to the government to prove the referendum had a "reasonable chance of success".

"We've had all sorts of background hints from the government that it is about to make an announcement," Mr Abbott said.

"Well, let them make an announcement and in making an announcement, let them give us the assessment that they have that there is a reasonable chance of a referendum succeeding, because my instinct tells me that, as with everything else, this government just has not done its homework; has not done the necessary work to give this any realistic chance of success."

Mr Abbott was also forced to deflect a question on whether his in-principle support of the referendum was causing consternation among his party colleagues.

News Limited reported on Friday an overwhelmingly number of Liberal Party MPs, including Senate leader Eric Abetz, were vehemently opposed to the idea.

Asked whether he had the support of his party, Mr Abbott said: "The short answer is, of course I do.

"Look, I think it is important to try to ensure that existing payments to local government from the Commonwealth can continue. I think that's quite important."



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