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Centralism by stealth

By Kerry Corke - posted Wednesday, 18 June 2008

On 15 May 2008, Brendan Nelson made his Address in Reply to the Budget.

An unreported part of the speech was framed in the nature of a "headland" address, setting out a possible general direction for the Opposition.

One issued raised was the condition of the federation.


He said:

It is very important for every one of us to ask ourselves in this the 21st century: how can we make the Federation work more effectively for our country in the interest of Australians? It will require all of us, in a mature and sober way, to examine the constitutional arrangements and responsibilities of the three tiers of government—who is responsible for what, how the money is raised and then how it is distributed.

He had better hurry, otherwise there will be nothing to worry about. The matter will be settled.

Writing in the Australian on 10 June, Lindsay Tanner said:

Across Australia there is recognition that our federation is a mess. We have this system because of how we started: a collection of separate entities, joined together to form a federation. In the intervening period, technological change and an increasingly global economy have transformed Australia in ways our colonial forebears could not have imagined.

He went on to say:


I no longer think that abolition of the states is the most practical or desirable reform option. But I do want to create a much clearer delineation of the roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government.

The Rudd Government's reform agenda reflects a simple but powerful concept that guides our approach to federalism: "Regulate nationally, deliver services locally."

The Finance Minister finally went on to note that the Council of Australian Government (COAG) was working on no fewer than 27 areas of regulatory reform.

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About the Author

Kerry Corke is principal of K.M. Corke and Associates, a Canberra based public law consultancy.

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