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The Forum > Article Comments > Abolishing the states - the benefits ignored > Comments

Abolishing the states - the benefits ignored : Comments

By John August, published 30/8/2005

John August argues the case for abolishing the states and territories of Australia.

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Abolishing States attracts regional Australians as an initial gut reaction to metropolitan malgovernance but once fully informed they invariably favour the modification of our notion of what a State can be and create more of them. This is also Geoffrey Blainey's view.

States don't need to be dominated by an ever bigger, ugglier and less sustainable megopolis but that is what ours do because we inherited an anglo/french notion of dominant London/Paris. The US "Farm States", and Canadian provinces, may still trade their commodities in Chicago but they write their own legislation in Cheyenne.

Wyoming (pop. 495,000) is only slighly larger than our home grown Farm State, Tasmania (pop. 480,000. Wyoming's capital, Cheyenne, (pop.53,000) represents 11% of voters and is entirely in tune with and dependent on it's hinterland. Wyoming ranked 8th best quality of life in 2002.

Abolishing states will deliver a mild increase in local government autonomy while delivering a second rate over-all standard of representation to regions.

It will never get up because it is, a) a radical change, b)it does not allow the cities to continue as they abviously want, and c)Drummond's savings don't stack up.

Local government is not even recognised in the Fed Constitution so change will involve multiple and complex reform with major risk. The existing state capitals are very attached to their state powers as a core element of their self definition. They make up 70% of the vote.

Drummond's calculation of cost savings from centralisation, and the assumed cost of duplication with new states, was based on a misunderstanding of fixed and variable costs. The fixed cost elements of a school or hospital will not be duplicated in a new state, nor eliminated in a unitary government. The schools and Hospitals remain regardless of the location of the seat of government. They are constants. They would only be subject to savings in a unitary state if the reform was also associated with mass depopulation of the area concerned.

New regional states are the only realistic option. "Nothing succeeds like Secession".
Posted by Perseus, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 11:45:02 AM
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Well said Perseus I believe we need more states not less. We also need to find some way to slow the growth of cities like Sydeny and increase growth in country areas.
Posted by Kenny, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 1:28:50 PM
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Yes to an Australian Police Force. An Australian educational system. An Australian drivers license,an Australian hospital service, instead of a WA or NSW or whatever.
Yet if we do away with states, which has many, many attractions, it would mean more power to the various 'Clown Halls' and the resident councillors.This could be a disaster unless these councils were "up-dated" and straightened out.
Maybe State Parliaments could become super statewide councils? only an idea.
Why not o/haul the federal Parliament. Make the speakers of both houses the natural progression of the Clerks of both houses.
Have politicians responsible only for setting policy and not in sole control of either house.Have the "new" speakers in charge of allocation of all monies. That's wages, allowances,travel and conduct of , as some see them - untrusworthy, greedy, sometimes corrupt - politicians in both houses. Let's have an Australian type, unique democracy. numbat
Posted by numbat, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 5:29:58 PM
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Could we create more states so that they reflected the diversity of Australias geography?

Little states with high population that encompass each capital city and the towns closest- Large states with few people but common problems of water managment and sevice delivery(a centralia?) and the ones in between.

Has anyone done any work in this direction?
Posted by Jellyback, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 6:57:53 PM
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Abolishing the states seems like a great idea at the time, but is far more difficult from a constitutional point of veiw than creating new ones. John August more or less acknowledges this in his last few lines, the obvious answer to the very real problems of mega/over/ centralised population is to do what the writers of our constitution envisaged and form more states along the demographic lines that suit particular regions and the populations, this should really be very easy and require little more than a vote at local government level to form the new state. Surely no State government would wish to over-ride the will and the basic human rights of its people in forming there own system of governance, that delivers real democratic rights and ensures economic, social and environmental sustainability, therefore ratification by the State government should be a matter of course. We need only witness the example of East Timor to see how valid is the right to self determination for all people at what ever level they require.

It is good that this arguement is up and running, the abolish the states arguement does very much emphasis the real and growing problems with our current political structures.
Posted by Chuck, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 7:50:03 PM
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Hi Perseus, it's Mark Drummond here.

Just to clarify: I've always classed the costs associated with schools, hospitals, teachers, nurses, doctros etc. as marginal costs.

As at www.asc.org.au/Costing_ Constitutional_Change_21Oct02.pdf, on page 48, I state as follows:

"But, whereas marginal per capita costs of schools, hospitals, teachers, nurses and so on could be expected to accrue at more or less equal levels in both larger and smaller federal units ..."

The fixed costs are mainly associated with bureaucracy, central agencies, head office, parliaments etc.

In Defence of the New States position, certainly there'd be some New States configurations that could comfortably pay their own way - obvious examples are rich mining areas. Though if this happened in parts of WA, the remaining areas would be seriously impoverished. The WA economy relies extremely heavily on mining, like the QLD economy relies very heavily on tourism and population growth. In general, New States - if anything like our current States - would almost certainly exacerbate the problems associated with border anomalies, duplication of centralised bureacracy etc.

I appreciate constructive criticism and am currently doing my best in my near finished PhD thesis to present costing estaimtes in a competent and even-handed manner as best as possible.
Best wishes.

Regards, Mark
Posted by MarkD, Tuesday, 30 August 2005 8:32:36 PM
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