Australian federalism under threat- again
Friday July 04th 2008, 6:32 am

Yet another trial balloon regarding disassembling Australian democracy, no more kings- in England or Canberrathis time from the Labor Party:

Abolish states, defence minister says

Australia is the most over-governed nation on Earth and reforms should include abolishing the states, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says.

Presenting the inaugural Edmund Barton Lecture at Newcastle University, Mr Fitzgibbon said the country was still paying heavily for the agreements by which the states passed some powers to the new commonwealth to achieve federation in 1901.

Barton, a leading figure in the push for federation and Australia’s first prime minister, was the first member for Hunter, although he never lived in the electorate.

Mr Fitzgibbon, the current Hunter MP, said the agreements on federation may or may not be described as a mistake – Barton and others were in no position to achieve otherwise.

But, he said: “It’s a system that leaves us the most over-governed country in the world”.

“Fourteen houses of parliament for 22 million people. In Tasmania, they have an MP for every 8,000 electors.”

Mr Fitzgibbon said the duplication, inefficiencies, buck passing and blame shifting cost the economy billions.

He said the Business Council of Australia put the cost at $9 billion a year.

Wholesale constitutional reform was long overdue and the starting point should be true independence, he said.

“It is past time for an Australian republic.

Fitzgibbon conflates the issue of dismantling federalism with that of implementing an Australian republic, ignoring the fact that the premises of the two are actually mutually exclusive.

Yes- it’s indeed well past due time for Australia to be a republic, with an Australian elected by the Australian people (NOT appointed by Parliament) as head of state.

No- we should not abolish states. Federalism decentralises authority, preventing Canberra from being the unfettered centre of power in Australia. Federalism is generally a good hedge against totalitarianism.

While John HoWARd did eventually find a route around federalism via the Corporations Power to force WorkChoices on the states, given he had control of not only government but the House and Senate as well, the fact that HoWARd had to fight his policies through the level of state governments forced debate on the issue rather than letting him jam it all up our noses wholesale, by edict. The debate itself, despite the states losing the case in the High Court, did eventually lead to HoWARd’s undoing at the 2007 elections.

HoWARd demonstrated that a PM with absolute power not only can but will defy the best interests of the Australian people to drive an ideological agenda.

Diversification of authority between Canberra and sovereign state governments, with many layers to the onion, is a good thing. A primary intent in establishing an Australian republic is to cut kings and queens out of the loop. Having a layer of state governments may be costly and may sometimes seem like a duplication of effort, but it’s simply a cost of maintaining a democratic government which answers to the people instead of the other way around.

Abolishing federalism by way of abolishing state governments permits a de-facto monarchy, with power just as absolute- there’s just no crowns.


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Dr Norman Abjorensen from the Australian National University makes some good sense: Cooperation better than abolishing states: analyst

Dr Abjorensen notes the merit of a federal system in the checks and balances the system affords, but I think he could have gone into greater detail.

Comment by weez 07.05.08 @ 7:56 am

aaaand now Captain Cathlick gets in on the game…

Nobble the states: Abbott’s quest for power

Comment by weez 07.10.08 @ 5:05 am

It will never happen- heres why;-

Most West Australians would rather secede than cede more power to the east coast.

Simple fact. And to get our democratic approval? Never gonna happen

– Dux ( Perth )

Comment by Don Oorst 07.13.08 @ 8:26 am

WA is an interesting case. People from WA are widely renowned for their independence compared to easterners. One would have to think that has a lot to do with historical transport and communications complications, now more resolved than they were as recently as 20-25 years ago. The west coast of the USA has similar characters for similar historical reasons, yet even absent a Nullarbor Plain, manages to maintain those traits.

I’m sure that outright abolition of states would require a constitutional amendment. Assent of a high percentage of voters in a referendum would be the legislative requirement, but HoWARd found a way to jam WorkChoices on the states. Abbott puts their real aim- to take what powers they want. Unfortunately, abolition of the states would be preferable to the people than piecemeal dismemberment as the Feds are not likely to assume responsibilities which states presently fulfill, all while taking away some individual powers of of local government.

Comment by weez 07.13.08 @ 12:38 pm

@Don Oorst.

Although I agree with you in it is unlikely to happen, it is still capable of going ahead despite a majority disapproval rate in WA.

Comment by WallGomez 05.11.11 @ 2:38 am

Leave a comment



Fatal error: Uncaught Error: Call to undefined function show_subscription_checkbox() in /home/www/ Stack trace: #0 /home/www/ require() #1 /home/www/ comments_template() #2 /home/www/ include('/home/www/machi...') #3 /home/www/ require_once('/home/www/machi...') #4 /home/www/ require('/home/www/machi...') #5 {main} thrown in /home/www/ on line 155