Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are we over-governed?

Why ease back into blogging gently when you can jump straight to a real doozy like federal-state relations?

Australia's federal system has come under increasing scrutiny over the past few years, with many people questioning why a country of just over 20 million needs to be governed by three levels of government.

Waste, duplication and inefficiency are just three of the arguments against federalism.

The debate around federalism has taken place in the context of increasing disillusionment, cynicism and apathy with regard to politics, politicians and public policy. A common perception is that State Governments are incompetent and need to be abolished and replaced by regional administration from the Commonwealth.

Business groups have also joined the chorus of voices calling for standardised and harmonised policies, legislation and regulations across Australia.

In the other camp, you have people (e.g. here and here) arguing that for all its faults federalism offers more responsiveness, lower taxes and greater transparency than the unitary systems found in countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

The debate isn't purely academic: The Howard Government took centralism to new levels when it took over a hospital in Tasmania in 2007, while the Rudd Government has used the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to place stringent requirements on the States to deliver in areas such reducing Indigenous disadvantage.

So what do you think?

How could our federal system be improved to provide more consistent and effective policy and services for Australians?

Is abolishing the States and Territories part of the answer or just a red herring?


Andrew Richardson said...

Hey - welcome back to blogland. Don't think I've got anything interesting to say on this topic though....

I am Josh. said...

Well Phil. It's quite simple.

The more politicians we have in our country, the more people we have making a decision on any given topic that anyone in their same position would make.

Make sense?

I'm no political penguin, but I think that as much as 90% of political solutions given, would've been given whether Rudd or Howard, Bligh or whoever the LNP leader is, etc.

Therefore although I'd be quite happy to rid our brown land of State politicians (and their subsequent cronies), someone, somewhere would be getting paid a similiar ludicrous wage to make the same decisions. There are too many stakeholders in any given situation to please everyone when making a tough decision, so decisions will continue to be made that need the stamina and nous of, well, a bucket of fairy floss.

So, in summary, we're all selfish little so and sos and it doesn't really matter who makes the decisions, we'll still hate them for it.

Check out and add it to your blog, as I'll do to yours.

Josh Mansfield

brad mccoy said...

a nightmare trying to change anything in our constitutional framework. i think, if it is ever to happen, it will be a long way off and preceded by some major calamity for which a state is responsible. baby steps, phil - first we need to unfetter ourselves of the yolk of the mother country!