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health, federalism, politics « Previous | |Next »
April 8, 2005

Despite the irony it looks real bad:

But it is not just Queensland. It is all the states in our federation. They are the ones who manage our large public hospitals. State governments have been given their public hospitals limited budgets and told to make do with less. This has meant rationing their services through ever growing lists and queues.

Now the states have been partly to blame for the chronic hospital waiting lists, (along with poor school standards, infrastructure lagging behind development, and broken promises on taxation). Their style of management during the 1980s and 1990s has been a form of economic management based on budget surpluses designed to preserve, or regain, their credit ratings instead of providing government services to reasonable standards.

The states have not been very smart on the politics of this. They've tried to deflect their responsibility by saying that the problem is Canberra, as it has cut back funding on the necessary funding.The states are not smart because they've being saying this whilst GST revenue has been rolling into their Treasury coffers. Being Labor states they continued to denounce the GST as a bad tax, even though it is growth tax that will give the states the financial independence they always wanted. It smacked of opportunism.

What the ALP state governments were doing was trying to disguise the way they had allowed themselves to be prisoners of Treasury group-think; and letting their neo-liberal Treasurys run human services in the name of sound finance or disciplined fiscal policy.

So the finger should be pointed squarely at the states as they really do need to lift their game. But the responsibility finger should not be just at the states.

The economic's profession is also partly responsible as they have advocated a particular economic mode of governance.

Their neo-liberal politics is about rolling back the welfare state, and they have said that good (rational) economics is to run budget surpluses based on cutting costs and reducing government services. The mentality behind this is that it is good that people suffer, as they will then appreciate that services cannot be provided free, and that they ought to pay for them through the market.

One consequence of this mode of governance by the states is the current commonwealth talk about a fundamental overhaul of the public health system; one that would bypass the states and fund regional authorities to oversee the provision of medical services and care. This basically means an increasing centralism with the commonwealth avoiding any dealings with the independnent states. Under this centralizing tendency the states will be increasingly sidelined, reduced to service deliverers, and given little role to play in national policy making. For more see Ken Parish's excellent post over at Troppo Armadillo.

It is an attack on federalism as it is an attempt to do away with division of powers in a federal polity. Power is going to the commonwealth's head.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:14 AM | | Comments (0)