Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce.
Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce.

Barnaby Joyce rallies councils for 'yes' campaign

QUEENSLAND Senator Barnaby Joyce has warned the referendum to formally recognise local government in the Constitution is at risk of failing unless councils around the country take up the fight.

Senator Joyce used his speech to the National Assembly of Local Governments to rally the troops for the "yes" campaign.

He said councils expecting either him or Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese to win the "yes" case would be disappointed as each would be campaigning for their respective parties during the election campaign.

"So, who is there? You," said Senator Joyce, who will soon resign from the Senate to concentrate on his bid to win the lower house seat of New England.

"That's it, you. You're going to have to win the argument."

Senator Joyce said the ongoing Labor leadership speculation was robbing the referendum debate of valuable airtime.

And he also vented his anger at the Federal Government's decision to provide $10 million for the "yes" campaign and just $500,000 for the "no" case. He argued the move had put the "yes" vote as risk.

It was a frustration expressed by a number of Coalition senators on Tuesday night and Wednesday as the constitutional recognition bill was debated in the upper house.

The issue was also debated as a matter of public importance after question time in the Senate on Wednesday.

"You've got to remember the opposing force is putting an argument that there is something sneaky, there is something clandestine, there is something going on," Senator Joyce told the national assembly.

"But it was a very bad start when unbeknownst to me or anyone on one side of the referendum that our side it getting $10 million and ... the other side is getting $500,000.

"That does not sell. We have to win this thing fair ... because we are right."

While the constitutional change has bipartisan support at federal level, a number of Coalition senators have already indicated they will not support the bill.

Senator Joyce said the opposition to the bill within the joint Coalition party room was real.

"I am fighting on your behalf in the leadership group of the Coalition," he said.

"To be honest with you I'm burning up political capital doing it, trying to keep them on board to make sure we get this thing through."

Debate on the bill, which has already passed the lower house, continues in the Senate.

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