School of Law

The Difficult Relationship between the Commonwealth and Municipal Councils: Three Sad Stories and Various Current Approaches.

A Faculty of Law and Institute for Conservation Biology and Law Joint Seminar by:
Dr. Andrew Kelly


Contemporary Australian local government faces several daunting problems, not least an escalating fiscal unsustainability and local infrastructure depletion. The main response of the state and territory governments has taken the form of structural reform programs, with a strong emphasis on forced amalgamation. However, widespread dissatisfaction with the consequences of these compulsory consolidation schemes has led to a search for alternative policy solutions based largely on shared services and various types of regional co-operation between local councils. This paper seeks to place proposed ‘regional’ solutions to contemporary problems in a historical perspective by providing a comparative account of three distinct federal government initiatives of ‘region-directed’ policy in the post-World Two era: the ‘nation-building’ of the 1940s; the ‘paternalism’ of the 1970s; and ‘self-sufficiency’ of the 1990s. Notwithstanding the complex relationship between historical circumstances and changing state-federal relations, important lessons for current local government policy making can be learnt from a critical assessment of these episodes of federal intervention at the regional level.



Dr Andrew Kelly is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, where he also is a member of the University's Institute of Conservation Biology and Law. He teaches in the areas of administrative law, environmental law and local government law. Andrew's research focuses on the interconnections between land-use planning, nature conservation, the nature of local government and relevant regional mechanisms. He is qualified in both town planning and law, having worked for rural and urban local government, as well as for the NSW state government, before joining academia. Andrew is a co-author of the Biodiversity Planning Guide for NSW Local Government , which in 2002 was awarded the Planning Institute of Australia 's prestigious national Ministerial prize for planning excellence.

Last reviewed: 18 December, 2013