The debate that had to happen but never did: The changing role of Australian local government

Brian Dollery*, Joe Wallis, Percy Allan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


The past few decades have witnessed a significant transformation in the composition of Australian local government service provision away from its traditional narrow emphasis on 'services to property' towards a broader 'services to people' approach. This process has occurred by default in an ad hoc incremental manner with virtually no debate on the changing role of local councils, unlike the New Zealand experience where a similar transition in service delivery generated public debate. In an effort to stimulate a 'debate that had to happen but never did', this paper seeks to establish whether a significant shift in the service mix of Australian municipalities has indeed taken place and then evaluates three stylized models of local government that could be adopted in Australia: minimalist councils; optimalist councils; and maximalist councils.The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Independent Inquiry into the Financial Sustainability of NSW Local Government and are attributable solely to the authors alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-567
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006


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