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Local Government

photo-1There are different types of local government in Australia.  Every city has a council, or even several councils.  In recent years there has been an effort to amalgamate smaller councils into bigger councils, such as the City of Greater Bendigo, or the City of Greater Geelong.

The chief person in a city council is the mayor, but unlike in the USA, this person has not got the same amount of authority or prestige.  Usually mayors serve for one year, and they are chosen by their fellow councillors.  Many mayors don’t even receive a full time wage, but serve in the role as a service to their communities.

Smaller towns and farming areas may have a shire council, headed by a president.  Unlike the USA where the president is the commander and chief of the nation, an Australian president represents the lowest level of government.

Some local governments are called boroughs, such as the Borough of Queenscliff in Victoria.  These are rather small councils and are fiercely independent.

All local government in Australia is under the authority of the State or Territory government, but councils can apply for and receive assistance directly from the Federal Government.

If a local government is failing or squandering public money, it may be ‘sacked’, by the State Government, and an administrator appointed until new elections and candidates can be arranged.  This has happened several times in different states over the years.

On Australia Day throughout Australia, it is the Local Government’s responsibility to arrange the Citizenship Ceremonies and present the new citizens with their certificates of citizenship.  In this way, the circle of Australian Government is complete; The Federal Government, The State Government and The Local Government, all government of Australia.

The job of local government is to enforce State and Local Laws, and service the community.  It is responsible for traffic flow, waste removal, public gardens, amenities such as public toilets, public libraries, public swimming pools, roads, footpaths and town planning.  Many of the laws the council enforce have been given them by the State Government, and in a few cases, by the Federal Government.  If a council wants to make a law, it is called a ‘by-law’.  By-laws are specific to each local government, but the State Police force can enforce them; such alcoholic free zones in public places during the holiday season.

Local governments receive their money by imposing a levy (called a ‘rate’) on every home owner and business.  The amount of the rate a person or business has to pay is determined by the council.  They make an assessment of how much tax to impose by using the current market value of the house or business.  In many councils, it is only the rate payers who are allowed to vote or run for council.  People who don’t own their own properties are denied the chance to serve their community, or participate in democratically held elections.

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