Constitutional change supported by councillor

Geoff Pritchard

The Snowy Valleys Council has received a report on proposed reforms to the Australian Constitution, with “interested councillors [planning to] initiate discussion with community groups and individuals about reform of the Australian Constitution.”

Cr Geoff Pritchard brought forward the motion and said the Australian Constitution is “fairly dated” and during Covid-19, Australia’s state borders have been shown to be “artificial boundaries” which can prevent people from receiving the best medical treatment or advice.

“This Covid crisis has exposed a number of fractures in our constitution with state borders and health services and lack of national certification and rules and so forth,” Cr Pritchard told the Council last Thursday.

“None of these are gigantic issues, but they’ve been exposed by this Covid problem.”

Cr Pritchard said it’s time that the constitution is reconsidered and updated for the future. He criticised the way that state borders have sometimes meant that people in border communities are “unreasonably directed to their own state health system when they may actually be closer in distance to assistance in another state.”

“Everyone every night looks at the awful Covid results, it’s little wonder people are getting depressed and having mental problems. We need to have a little light on the hill.”

Cr Pritchard said it’s likely that situations similar to the Covid-19 pandemic will happen again, and the constitution should be reconsidered by all levels of government and across the entire population of the country.

That starts with the level of government closest to the people, according to Cr Pritchard.

“We need to modernise our constitution,” he said.

That modernisation starts with reconsidering how state borders operate. Cr Pritchard said it didn’t make sense to close the borders, which typically run along the nation’s rivers and are often straddled by twin cities.

“To have extradition from one state to another seems absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

Instead, Cr Pritchard would like to see decisions made in a way that is nationally cohesive, with all levels of government working in cooperation with each other, instead of being divided by issues of border closures and different regulations from one side of a river to the other.

“We need to get the conversation going and I can’t think of anywhere else to get it going other than at local council level.”

In order to see a constitutional change go into effect, a proposed change must win the approval of the Parliament and then be voted on by Australian citizens through a public referendum.

Charles Sturt University’s Bede Harris has also been championing the idea of constitutional reform, for similar reasons. Mr Harris, a senior law lecturer at CSU’s Albury-Wodonga campus, said that border closures during pandemics don’t make sense, and they reveal how dated the three-tier system of government really is. 

Mr Bede said there shouldn’t be state borders, and that the country should be run as one unified whole.

That way, Covid hotspots could be isolated without affecting a broad swath of people who happen to live within the same “arbitrarily” drawn boundaries.