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the task of state government is... « Previous | |Next »
May 31, 2006

Two comments about the function of state governments in Australian federation which arise from commentary about Victoria's 2006 budget. The Brumby budget is described by Tim Colebatch op.ed. in The Age as following the well-worn formula of John Brumby's previous five budgets:

There's some increased spending on schools, hospitals, public transport and other government services: enough for voters to notice, but not enough to alarm the ratings agencies. There are modest tax cuts to show business that this Government wants to keep Victoria a competitive business environment. And the bottom line is always a modest surplus, ensuring that the Government retains its AAA stamp as responsible economic managers

The new formuale of living within very ample financial means by by progressive State about governments is better than the alternative one of paying off debt and watching the infrastructure decay, justified by the need for sound fiscal policy and economic responsibility.

Colebatch then says that:

These days federal politics is where the ideological battles are fought, even if one team sometimes seems to be fighting itself rather than its opponent. State politics is essentially about management, delivering services fairly and efficiently, and making sure everyone gets a decent share.

Kenneth Davidson, in his op ed about the Victoria's budget in The Age, confirms this view. He says that the primary function of state governments is economical service delivery in areas such as education, health, roads and public transport. Hence we have the debates about efficiency in service delivery and social justice and that's about it. On this centralized model of federalism, state government is becoming more and more akin to local government.

Is there not scope for state government to lead the reform process in Australia? To act, as opposed to talk about, for the long term. To shape the way we live in these states in a more ecologically sustainable direction. Are not ideological and political battles about reiorm also fought at a state level?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:07 AM | | Comments (1)


Under federalism, the most dynamic and energetic government should be state government. The other benefit is that where a unitary policy stance from federal government, if a failure, means the whole country suffers from poor policy. With the states success and failure is localised offering better chances for policy outcomes to be tried.