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The Forum > Article Comments > Expensive way to run a country > Comments

Expensive way to run a country : Comments

By George Williams, published 15/12/2006

The outdated federal system blocks the way to economic wellbeing.

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Would it be possible to do away with state governments altogether, in favour of another 'two tiered' system between enlarged local government structures and one central/federal government? I think it would be and it is more reflective of modern community needs.

Checks and balances would still be evident. National issues such as education, health and water supply would be better coordinated and financial management would be more efficiently handled.

Improved and 'instant' communication mechanisms make responsible decision-making possible between governments in any location now so it seems much more logical to make 'government' more physically accessible for citizens, via higher-profile local government offices. Local governments have been screaming out for more involvement in decision-making, that better reflects the opinions of their citizens.Increasingly, we look to federal government to 'be involved' in issues of national concern, that are not traditional federal spheres of control. State governments can get very much 'in the way' yet they do not fulfil their original function to represent citizens more diversely and efficiently.

Poker machines are a case in point. Up to 95% of locally surveyed Australian citizens begged for 'governments' to control poker machines more effectively, to make them safer or to ban them. The huge losses that are draining local communities are of concern to both the communities themselves and to federal government, because citizen safety has been challenged. Yet power to control poker machines and their revenue is vested with the state governments who have ignored local citizen interests, to fulfil apparent agendas of their own.

State governments are obsolete, too expensive and wasteful in terms of value for money. It is time for them to go in my opinion. They cause unnecessary conflicts and hinder wise over-arching development that must occur, while governments must still represent citizen interests.
Posted by banpokies1, Friday, 15 December 2006 10:06:00 AM
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A two-tiered system would be a joke. The ACT, NT and Tasmania demonstrate to anyone who can accept that the world has moved on since 1973 that regional governments are a non-starter. A variety of regions with nothing in common would not make faster or better decisions, especially in an era of a) "I was not informed" and b) companies big enough to bully regions into giving them what they want. More:

If the Federal Government thinks an issue is important, it can run the facilities necessary for that policy, it can fund it and can take responsibility - good or ill - for the provision of that service. People will soon learn that not everything can be run from Canberra, just as it's equally clear that your local council can't do much about global warming and the Federal Government can address the working conditions of absolutely everyone in a complex economy.

Political irresponsibility occurs wherever those responsible for raising the money for a service are not those responsible for spending it. Rann and others are right in saying that the functions of different levels of government need to be sorted out first, then we can deal with legal issues. The Constitution has to follow functions of government and not the other way around.

COAG meetings are not "political theatre", they are tiresome and self-indulgent: a responsible media would start reporting them as more the latter than the former.
Posted by AndrewElder, Friday, 15 December 2006 11:27:17 AM
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The federal system is a good system to run a large and diverse country such as Australia. The problem is that the federal system we have is so altered from the original intention of the Founding Fathers with the states being now so emasculated by loss of financial independence that they cannot carry out their functions, which form the bulk of domestic government activity, without interference from Canberra.

As a previous comment attested, when the system separates the raising of revenues (predominantly commonwealth) from the spending of revenues (predominantly states) as the large vertical fiscal imbalance and system of federal grants in Australia does; you will create a lack of accountably, a "blame game", waste of monies and reduced services.

There are two solutions. Modify the conception of "state" so that they become service delivery agencies accountable to the commonwealth for their spending - making them sort of commonwealth government regionally based super-departments; or else strengthen the states by returning genuinely independent revenue raising capacity by restoring their income taxing powers. Either way, the link between raising and spending revenues is restored as is accountability.
Posted by travellingnorth, Friday, 15 December 2006 12:54:05 PM
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The current state of Federal-State relations shows just how undemocratic our system really is. Anyone who doubts this should note that none of these changes were approved by the people at a referendum, they are all the result of High Court decisions. The fatal weakness of course is that High Court Justices are appointed by the Commonwealth government and not unexpectedly interpret the Constitution in favour of the Commonwealth. States Righters like me, who want to see different laws in different states, with people racing for the Queensland frontier (which they are entitled to cross), and with no extradition, were happy with the original conception of the Commonwealth government as a second-class, second grade sovereignty of limited and strictly enumerated powers. The thought that new developments, such as aviation, could not be controlled federally as they are not mentioned in the Constitution. How we were disillusioned we were! The people were on side, voting "No" to almost every attempt to increase Federal power by referendum. The result serves to reinforce the four general principles of Australian political life that are never discussed:

1. The government is the enemy of the people, and can never be trusted.

2. No taxation without representation, with any deficiency being made up from the sale of politicians' assets.

3. The main problem with elections is that no matter whom you vote for, a POLITICIAN is ALWAYS elected.

4. ALWAYS vote NO in referendums.
Posted by plerdsus, Friday, 15 December 2006 8:51:41 PM
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We hear no end of stories about government duplication between state and federal government but very little about the costs and diseconomies of scale that stem from excessive concentration of government.

The original purpose in having separate states instead of one great british colony called New South Wales was to ensure that economic growth was more evenly distributed. This was also the reason why John Dunmore Lang wanted three new states in Queensland and why most of the founders at federation fully expected at least two more states to be formed from NSW.

This right to form new states was the right of all British subjects to petition the crown to form new colonies, for the "peace, order and good governance" of the empire. Without this right of self determination the existing state/colony of NSW would have been free to veto the legitimate aspirations of Victorians, Tasmanians, South australians and Queenslanders. And the behaviour of NSW towards the new colony of Qld confirms this point.

But once the Brisbane interests had succeeded in getting their own state they then set about ensuring that the rest of Qld were denied this same right. Indeed, it was only on the threat of Qld staying out of federation that the provisions granting existing states a veto over new state formation were added to the federal constitution.

The existing states have all been guilty of trying to impose their own centralised unitary state over their own regions, even when the interests of those regions are quite distinct from those of the metropolitan power. And it is this replication of a unitary government by the existing states that imposes most duplication costs.

These veto provisions are directly at variance with the UN covenant on social and political rights and are also at variance with the principles of the Westminster system. Get them out of the way so new states can reflect the will of their own communities and we will have the vibrant federalism that our founders envisioned but were cheated out of in a back room deal.
Posted by Perseus, Friday, 15 December 2006 10:34:06 PM
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Who is running this democracy? The people or the Business Council?

Where has business got the average person?

Global warming!
A greater gap between rich and poor!
Abolition of Workers rights!
Sub-standard lower wages leading to a working poor!
Impotent Government!

Australia's democracy was one that was admired the world around.

It was created to ensure no centralisation of power and the ability for lengthy debate, whereby the best decisions were made for the futures of Australian citizens.

Business has reported it would be acceptable to give Native title to the Aborigines because it would be easier to negotiate deals with them!

The only reason why our democratic system does not work is because Government, lawyers and those of power have altered and changed its legislation and laws.

Businesses goals are to abolish State Government because then it would be easier for them to make deals with one centralised power.

If the Business council told you to put your head in a bucket of Faeces would you?

Well our Government and its cronies have their head and ours, in it.

The abolishment of State Governments is just another candle to hold for those who aspire to a Republic.

When you look at our politicians faces it is not hard to see the brown marks on their faces for the time they have had their heads in the bucket.
Posted by Suebdootwo, Sunday, 17 December 2006 11:18:18 AM
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