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COVID-19 may bring back competition between the states

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 5 July 2023

Australia is a federation, although for decades now it has been hard to notice.

But COVID-19 may have changed everything.

In a functioning federation, like the United States, states revel in competition and distinguishing themselves from each other.


While California appears to be going woke and broke at the moment, Florida is where "woke goes to die" and where increasing numbers of California migrants go to live. This state competition is a consequence of legal structures, but just as importantly, mental attitudes.

COVID is the greatest disruption, short of war, in anyone's lifetime. One of its consequences might be to change the mindset of Australian premiers so that real federalism becomes reborn.

There are a few green shoots, such as the pitch to Victorian businesses from South Australia's Treasurer Stephen Mullighan to vacate the high-taxing, sclerotic Victoria to his own state.

Or the bid by Queensland to retain its share of its Commonwealth Grants even though it has massively increased its revenue by increasing coal royalties.

Then you have Victoria increasing its tax levels rather than wind in expenditure, while the new New South Wales administration foreshadows economic prudence, paring expenses, and cancelling plans to borrow.

This divergence was more or less unprecedented pre-COVID-19.


During COVID, premiers did the previously unthinkable and closed borders (or in the case of the island state of Tasmania, pulled up the gangplank) and implemented quite distinct policies.

Suddenly there were "our" people, who lived in our state, and other Australians who were treated like aliens.

This was exemplified in the statement of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that Queensland hospitals were "for our people only," as she compelled a pregnant woman to fly 610 kilometres (379 miles) to Sydney for a difficult birth rather than allowing her to drive the 88 kilometres from Ballina near the state border to the Gold Coast.

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This article was first published in the Epoch Times.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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