Howard channels Whitlam, part 2

The increasingly centralist tendencies of the Howard government have been obvious for a while. Howard’s latest statement that Australia would be better off without state governments is only a bit stronger than what he said last year. As I pointed out at the time, both Whitlam and Howard are wrong on this, and the whole idea of regional governments won’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny.

What makes the statements more significant now is the fact that Howard has control of the Senate and can therefore repudiate the GST deal had, more generally, do whatever he likes. It will be interesting to see whether professed defenders of federalism, like the National Party, stand up to him on this.

27 thoughts on “Howard channels Whitlam, part 2

  1. The biggest drawback to Federalism is the main taxing power, which the smaller states wouldn’t want back from the Feds because they would be disadavantaged over their current subsidised status. WA, SA and perhaps to a lesser extent NT are city states with bugger all outside the capitals(except perhaps WA with mineral wealth) It would be hard to produce any viable regions outside the capitals in these city states. A case of cities or snakes and goannas really.

    With income tax, GST and excise in the hands of the Feds, the states struggle to compete on the tax crumbs which become increasingly important to them.

    There is little economic point in the states outbidding each other to attract business, particularly the multinats and it doesn’t make sense to have different rail gauges or road/registration rules. Think truckies and running multiple log books. All that leaves is tinkering about with shopping hours, daylight saving and anti-vilification laws, the last a good case for federalism over centralism it would appear.(Gallop ditched Bracks can of worms with the Muslims and Pentecostalists)

    The attraction of Regionalism does run into the country/city schism all the time and perhaps Globalisation leads inevitably to more centralism too.

  2. PK, it’s not that saying “indissoluble” makes it so, but that these things get morally reinforced by usage. Let the republicans throw away some of that habit by asserting that the preamble is meaningless (for their own purposes, of course), and that reduces the effect of the whole. It loses the weight that crystallises out around the form. That’s why forms matter, and Mao Tse Tung was at such pains to emphasise “paper tigers” – he wanted to remind people of the paperiness before substance accreted (which it often has throughout Chinese history, e.g. the 1920s Chinese government itself).

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