Federalism at its worst

If there has ever been a worse contribution to Australian federalism than this decision by the Howard government to provide special funding to a hospital in Tasmania (naturally located in a marginal electorate) I don’t recall it. I say this as someone who has repeatedly called for the Commonwealth to take over hospitals.

Interfering in the funding for one hospital is worse than useless, and the transparent political opportunism of this decision makes it worse still. Why not have the Federal Health Minister review waiting lists, and push swinging voters up the queue?

This is part of a pattern with the Howard government, in which it funds or mandates politically appealing extras while leaving the states with the responsibility for providing the basics. We’ve seen this in schools (chaplains, values education, compulsory history and so on), TAFE (the Commonwealth’s new colleges) the Murray (where the states are still stuck with managing land use), Aboriginal communities and a whole host of other areas. The result is even more duplication and waste than we had before. Howard is now more centralist than Whitlam, who at least encouraged the states to join his efforts.

I’m beginning to think that maybe some of this should be done in reverse. Perhaps Queensland should turn its police force into an army, and start invading other countries, or top up old age pensions. And maybe local councils should get in the act as well. Then we’d always have a choice of three governments to deal with whatever problem we faced. Why accept duplication when we could have triplication instead?

53 thoughts on “Federalism at its worst

  1. Alex,

    Sorry for confusing a number of issues. Political science is new to me, so I hope you can forgive my ignorance in this area.

    Upon reflection, IMHO it might be safer to conclude that the UK has sovereignty capable of creating or abolishing sub-governmental units and Australia has two levels of sovereignty with similar capabilities.

    Governments are self regulating monopolies with an evolutionary propensity to create extra unnecessary work and income for themselves. Both the UK and Australian models are guilty of this, so I agree with you and Jill and conclude that the regimes in both countries, are equally overburdening their communities with too much government that manifests itself within the multiple layers.

    That being said, Australia’s second sovereign level has the added expense of being 6 replicated sovereignties, with their own sub-governmental units that replicate the other states sub-governmental units and also a lot of the federal and local government functions as well. The adversarial nature of this fragmented power, between the 6 states and commonwealth, has the states working independently and against one another as well as against the commonwealth.

    The replication seems excessive and inefficient, especially in light of the Australian population being 1/3 that of the UK. Concentrating power does carry more risk, but considering the UK has for many years successfully conducted a unitary state, those risks seem ‘over-stated’. So having a centralist government in Australia wouldn’t be the end of the world. The majority of the world’s countries are unitary states and this includes other successful western styled democracies like France, Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland and Japan etc…

    Anyway as mentioned above there are no easy answers, but this seems like the best solution put forward thus far;

    Bring Back the Currency Lad Says:

    “rog is correct one cannot abolish states but one can increase the number.
    Why not increase them a lot and abolish local councils!!�

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s