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Williams on federalism « Previous | |Next »
March 28, 2008

George Williams has an op--ed in the Canberra Times on repairing Australian federalism. Rather opportune after the recent CoAG meeting that celebrated a co-operative federalism. He says:

There is a stark choice: to continue to pay extra tax for second-rate services, or to accept the challenge and opportunity of reform and fix the system of government by a proper allocation of tax revenue and a more appropriate division of power over areas of responsibility. The answer is not to abolish the Australian territories and states. That would be unrealistic and bad policy. Few local problems can be solved by unilateral action from a national government. At least one lower tier of government is needed to help develop regional solutions and deliver services.

He says that while Australia's federal system of government is broken, the answer is to fix that system, not to jettison it. We should focus on pragmatic, achievable change that lowers taxes and improves the quality of government services.

Is the federal system of governance broken? Or is it just creaky? Maybe it is in need of some repairs, as it were? A bit of tender love and care. It's not clear why the GST doesn't provide the income for the states. It doesn't come with strings attached. What is wrong with it, apart from it being not enough? No independence?

Williamsgoes on to say:

In the short term, there are many things that can be done to improve how our federal system works, like facilitating cooperation and re-examining finances. COAG has made an important start on this.In the longer term, the text of the Australian Constitution will also need to change. If the rules are not reformed, bad habits will resurface and blockages re-emerge. There is a need for a revised set of rules to accommodate the changes of the past century and to prepare for the next. This needs to be part of a new deal for Australia's federal system.

What are the new rules that are required if co-operation is working these days? Rules as to finances? What sort of rules? Increased financial independence for the states?

Williams doesn't say.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:31 PM | | Comments (4)


George tells us that a lower tier of government is needed to remedy regional issues. That's the system we have now and that lower tier is advised by another tier of public servants. The time has come to dump that lower tier of government. The result would be: hospital problems...all eyes cast toward Canberra. No more of the "oh, that's a state issue or that's a federal issue" tosh we currently get.

Rumpole QC
all the best in your efforts to abolish federalism and replace it have Leviathen.

I will stick to ensuring that there are checks and balances on political power.

Gary, those checks and balances will comfit your wife as she miscarries in the toilet of a large hospital. Or you could wait on platform 3 at Parramatta, mortified when you hear: the 7:38am service to the city has been canceled for today only...CityRail apologises for any inconvenience. Who does the checking and balancing in those cases?

Rumpole QC,
as a QC your naive pose about constitutional matters is unconvincing. Referendums are required to change the constitution, which is guarded by the High Court.

The hospital case is done by the commonwealth in terms of performance targets and Medical boards re unprofessional conduct. As you well know from your legal experience.

The NSW train scenario is done by citizens in a democracy tossing out the incompetent state government. As you well know.

In your Leviathan I do not know. That is for you to answer. From memory Leviathan rules with a sword and their are no political rights for individuals.