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Tony Abbott might think his approvals plan will simplify things, but it will unleash new complications. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Opposition plan to surrender environmental approvals a messy backward step

While the political focus in Australia was on the Labor Party leadership challenge, the Opposition released its policy for “a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals”. The policy claims that handing…
National parks make up a lot of our landmass, but change is needed if they’re to protect it. Flickr/Paolo Rosa

Making national parks truly national

Australia boasts over 500 national parks covering 28 million hectares of land, or about 3.6% of Australia. You could be forgiven for thinking we’re doing well in the biodiversity-conservation game. But…
Western Australia remains the only state to have attempted to secede from the Australian federation, passing a referendum in favour in 1933. AAP/Adam Gartrell

Breaking up is hard to do: why Western Australia would find it difficult to divorce Canberra

Gina Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock was a big proponent of Western Australia seceding from the Australian federation, and every time the latest figures on GST distributions are released, sympathetic sentiments…
Water is in short supply and high demand in Australia: who should have the final say on its use?

Regulating water: debate swirls around Commonwealth’s role

The release of a Senate report into a Commonwealth water trigger marks another chapter in a debate that has simmered and bubbled for 30 years in Australia. The report recommends that the main Commonwealth…
The Gillard government’s Gonski reforms have a long way to go before reaching a school near you. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Budget blowouts and states wrangles: where to now on Gonski?

Last week NSW signed up to the Gillard government’s proposed changes to school funding – a deal that would see a new funding model based on the Gonski review and an injection of A$5 billion into NSW schools…
Tony Abbott has been quiet on the subject of federalism recently. AAP/Alan Porritt

Grattan on Friday: Abbott, a centralist at heart

Suddenly, everyone seems to be unloading about the state of federal-state relations and the problems of the Council of Australian Governments. COAG, where the prime minister, premiers and chief ministers…
The practice of Australian federalism is totally removed from the model designed by our founders: we desperately need a national debate about the rationale and structure of federation. bowenmurphy/Flickr

Canary in the mine of federalism: Tasmania is singing for Australia

Is Tasmania at a tipping point? Over the next two weeks The Conversation, in conjunction with Griffith REVIEW and the University of Tasmania, is publishing a series of provocations. Our authors ask where…
Weakening environmental protections would make it harder to do business in Australia. Dave Hunt/AAP

Cutting ‘green tape’ won’t make a more prosperous Australia

Proposed changes to Australia’s national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC) 1999, appear to have been shelved. The politics have shifted rapidly. Ultimately, the…
As a World Heritage Area, Springbrook National Park gets additional protection from the Commonwealth. What if Queensland were in charge of its future? Shaun Johnston

Commonwealth should keep final say on environment protection

Almost 30 years ago, the Australian High Court gave the Commonwealth Government constitutional authority to make laws protecting the national environment. Now, a Council of Australian Governments (CoAG…
Changes to Murray Darling policy are a big win for SA, but NSW and Victoria aren’t impressed. Feral Arts

Murray-Darling: why Australia needs intergovernmental cooperation

On Friday, the Prime Minister announced that the Commonwealth will spend $1.7 billion to increase water return to the Murray-Darling River by a further 450 gigalitres. The announcement is a big win for…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking at the National Press Club yesterday signalled serious changes to the states’ role in education. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

The real agenda behind Gillard’s Gonski response

After the government’s response to the Gonski report on schools funding, it’s worth looking at not only what was in the announcement but what wasn’t. Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered no indication…
With so many vested interests, opposition to the plan will likely last a long time yet. SA Eco Images Pty Ltd

Resisting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – in whose interest?

As the final version of the Murray-Darling Plan heads to Parliament there seems little doubt that the debate will continue. The sticking point remains the volume of water to be returned to the environment…
Minister Tony Burke is slowing down coal development in Queensland, but there’s more to it than saving turtles. Landfeldt/Flickr

Commonwealth and Queensland face off over coal and Great Barrier Reef

The halt in the Alpha Coal Project approval process shows the Commonwealth is taking very seriously UNESCO’s recent report threatening downgrading the status of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area…
Campbell Newman, Barry O'Farrell and Julia Gillard enjoy a laugh at last week’s COAG meeting. AAP/Lukas Coch

COAG: the theatre and the reality

The rituals before a Council of Australian Governments meeting tend to outweigh the substance and outcomes from the meeting. By playing the parochial card before the meeting, state premiers sell themselves…
Don’t mention the F-word: the states are unenthusiastic about COAG’s brand of managerial federalism. AAP

COAG sounds off on harmony, but are the states listening?

In our desire to “end the blame game”, do we expect too much from the various governments in Australia’s federal system? This is the question prompted by the release of the third report by the Council…

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