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Analysis and Comment (43)

The states are far better placed to make good education policy for Australians than the Commonwealth. The states are far better placed to make good education policy for Australians than the Commonwealth. AAP

Hands off, Canberra: education is better off with the states

Could we be witnessing the dawn of a new era of education federalism? It’s rare to hear senior public servants severely and publicly criticise existing institutional and political arrangements and call…
There have been instances of successful federalism - how do we return to these? There have been instances of successful federalism - how do we return to these? Flickr/monkeyc.net

How we can reinvigorate the Australian Federation

When our two major levels of government work in partnership, our Federation can function well. The standout period for cooperative federalism was the Hawke/Keating term of government, producing the National…
A formal, transparent and public assessment of infrastructure benefits and costs is the only way to ensure the right decision are made. A formal, transparent and public assessment of infrastructure benefits and costs is the only way to ensure the right decision are made. Dan Peled/AAP

Realising Abbott’s infrastructure dream will need state support

One of the many challenges facing the Australian economy over the next decade or two concerns investment in transport, electricity, water, communications, health and education, and other infrastructure…
An unintended consequence of competitive federalism has led states to abandon high benefit-cost ratio projects for inferior ones. An unintended consequence of competitive federalism has led states to abandon high benefit-cost ratio projects for inferior ones. AAP/Alan Porritt

Beggar bowl politics blocks Federation’s potential

Calls to lift the GST rate to placate the states financial challenges will serve to only exacerbate an already severe vertical fiscal imbalance and prolong a deeply unsatisfactory chapter in Australia’s…
The NSW Baird government is relying on asset sales to fund infrastructure, but all state governments have a revenue problem. The NSW Baird government is relying on asset sales to fund infrastructure, but all state governments have a revenue problem. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

New federalism promise recedes on falling wave of state asset sales

The fiscal relationship between the Commonwealth and the states in Australia’s federal system is unsustainable in the long term. That statement has been difficult to deny ever since the 1940s, when Canberra…
Realistic reforms to federal-state financial relations are possible with the right amount of political will. Realistic reforms to federal-state financial relations are possible with the right amount of political will. AAP/Alan Porritt

Could ‘hard budget constraints’ fix the federation’s fiscal feud?

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut $80 billion funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. So how can federal-state…
What’s the ideal arrangement for funding education? Would responsibility lie with the federal or state governments? What’s the ideal arrangement for funding education? Would responsibility lie with the federal or state governments? AAP

Is education better off in state or federal hands?

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut $80 billion funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. So how can federal-state…
The chances of a single level of government taking charge of Australia’s health system are slim. The chances of a single level of government taking charge of Australia’s health system are slim. AAP/Quentin Jones

Federal-state health relations: can anything be salvaged?

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut $80 billion funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. So how can federal-state…
Since the first Commonwealth parliament, commemorated in a special 2001 sitting in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, government has grown in unanticipated ways. Since the first Commonwealth parliament, commemorated in a special 2001 sitting in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, government has grown in unanticipated ways. AAP/Julian Smith

A reformed federation to match the needs of modern Australia

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut some $80 billion in funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. So how…
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls had little good news to deliver. Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls had little good news to deliver. Dan Peled/AAP

Queensland budget shows why the federation is broken

As Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls released the state budget yesterday, one could be excused for not really noticing. Long the poor cousin of Australian Federalism, state budgets rarely get much press…
There is now a large disparity between the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states and their relative capacities to fund those responsibilities. There is now a large disparity between the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states and their relative capacities to fund those responsibilities. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federation frozen in time fails as a model of accountable government

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut some $80 billion in funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. But how…
Australia’s state premiers are avoiding a GST discussion. Australia’s state premiers are avoiding a GST discussion. Daniel Munoz/AAP

GST reform a golden opportunity, soon to be missed by the states

This past Tuesday was another bad day for Australian federalism: the Abbott government’s first budget announced the axing of the COAG Reform Council and the withdrawal of a promised A$80 billion from health…
Former Victorian premier John Brumby, pictured at a COAG meeting in 2008, wants an Australian federation with a better balance between roles, responsibilities and revenue. Former Victorian premier John Brumby, pictured at a COAG meeting in 2008, wants an Australian federation with a better balance between roles, responsibilities and revenue. AAP/Paul Miller

John Brumby: an Australian federation for the future

More than 100 years after Federation, the government’s White Paper on Reform of the Federation presents a historic opportunity to reconsider federal-state relations and responsibilities. How can state…
Ever thus… there is a quite a history of the federal government pulling funding from the states. Ever thus… there is a quite a history of the federal government pulling funding from the states. AAP/Alan Porritt

Funding stoush between the states and feds not so new

The states have some justification in being annoyed about being stripped of $80 billion worth of federal funding for health and education funding. These programs were negotiated on the basis of shared…
The federal budget shows that Tony Abbott is now committed to a strong division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states, rather than a more centralised model. The federal budget shows that Tony Abbott is now committed to a strong division of responsibility between the Commonwealth and the states, rather than a more centralised model. AAP/Alan Porritt

Abbott draws up new battlelines in the fight over federalism

When treasurer Joe Hockey detailed his first budget on Tuesday, the announcement that the states and territories were to be stripped of A$80 billion in federal health and education funding agreed to with…
The High Court has given the Commonwealth two serious warnings that it needs to review its extensive spending program since 2009, but these have gone largely unheard. The High Court has given the Commonwealth two serious warnings that it needs to review its extensive spending program since 2009, but these have gone largely unheard. AAP/Lukas Coch

Commonwealth spending back in the High Court’s sights

This week, the High Court heard Toowoomba man Ron Williams’ second challenge to the constitutionality of the Commonwealth’s funding of the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. While…
The Commission of Audit has recommended a major recalibration of Australia’s federal system. Why? The Commission of Audit has recommended a major recalibration of Australia’s federal system. Why? AAP/Alan Porritt

Will the Commission of Audit lead to another ‘new federalism’?

The Commission of Audit has not flinched from making a tranche of bold recommendations to the Abbott government, but nothing in its report trumps the call for the Commonwealth to withdraw from areas that…
Infrastructure is a key challenge for Jay Weatherill’s South Australian state government, which has been returned to power in a minority government arrangement. Infrastructure is a key challenge for Jay Weatherill’s South Australian state government, which has been returned to power in a minority government arrangement. AAP/Ben Macmahon

Labor lives to fight another day in South Australia

The electoral uncertainty in South Australia has come to an end, at least for the foreseeable future. To some disbelief, Labor premier Jay Weatherill has managed to overcome the odds – and indeed the polls…
The Liberals, headed by Will Hodgman, has trounced Labor in Tasmania; will “coast to coast” state coalition governments transpire? The Liberals, headed by Will Hodgman, has trounced Labor in Tasmania; will “coast to coast” state coalition governments transpire? AAP

Not yet ‘coast to coast’ coalitions - so what now for federalism?

Over the weekend, Tasmanian voters resoundingly rejected Labor, while South Australians drove a cliff-hanger result that will probably be decided in the coming days. It’s not quite yet the “coast to coast…
COAG should not be a place where the rate of progress can be measured in decades. Federal and state leaders dragged the chain again last December. COAG should not be a place where the rate of progress can be measured in decades. Federal and state leaders dragged the chain again last December. AAP/Alan Porritt

To fix the Federation we must harness the digital revolution

December’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting passed with barely a murmur. But structural conflicts between the federal and state governments are a constant, making government dysfunctional…
The school funding row left NSW premier Barry O'Farrell and prime minister Tony Abbott with fences to mend ahead of Abbott’s first COAG meeting. The school funding row left NSW premier Barry O'Farrell and prime minister Tony Abbott with fences to mend ahead of Abbott’s first COAG meeting. AAP/Paul Miller

Herding cats: Tony Abbott’s challenges for his first COAG

Personality matters in Commonwealth-state relations. A change of leader always brings with it a different approach to managing the relationship between the jurisdictions that make up the Australian federation…
The Coalition government’s deal with the states over schools funding should not be broken so easily. The Coalition government’s deal with the states over schools funding should not be broken so easily. AAP Image/Tim Dornin

Legally binding or not? Why breaking the Gonski funding deals matters

Education minister Christopher Pyne has announced the new government will dump the agreements with the states on the Gonski school funding reforms, negotiated by the former Labor government. Pyne has said…
So far in the campaign, neither party has released a policy on how to forge a better relationship with the states. So far in the campaign, neither party has released a policy on how to forge a better relationship with the states. Image from shutterstock.com

Election 2013 Issues: Governing Australia

Welcome to the The Conversation’s Election 2013 State of the Nation essays. These articles by leading experts in their field provide an in-depth look at the key policy challenges affecting Australia as…
Tony Abbott has promised a new way forward for federal-state relations if the Coalition wins government. But will he find the federal lever of power too tempting not to pull? Tony Abbott has promised a new way forward for federal-state relations if the Coalition wins government. But will he find the federal lever of power too tempting not to pull? AAP/Alan Porritt

Federal-state reform: is Abbott offering the real deal?

Opposition leader Tony Abbott announced on the weekend that a government he leads would adopt a new approach to relations between the Commonwealth and the states. He has promised to meet with the state…
Tony Abbott might think his approvals plan will simplify things, but it will unleash new complications. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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…
Jeff Kennett has long been an advocate of joining Tasmania and Victoria. Jeff Kennett has long been an advocate of joining Tasmania and Victoria. AAP/Joe Castro

South Vicmania? North Tastoria? Why merging three Australian states is a bad idea

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…
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. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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…
Victoria’s planning laws pose a barrier to achieving national renewable energy goals. Victoria’s planning laws pose a barrier to achieving national renewable energy goals. Hepburn Wind

Victorian wind farm laws: a blow to Australia’s clean energy future?

It’s been just over one year since the Baillieu government introduced the second part of its far-reaching planning law reforms to restrict the development of wind farms in Victoria. The results are an…
With so many vested interests, opposition to the plan will likely last a long time yet. 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. 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. 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. 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…
The State premiers and Prime Minister, Julia Gillard meet at the Council of Australian Governments (AAP/Alan Porritt) The State premiers and Prime Minister, Julia Gillard meet at the Council of Australian Governments (AAP/Alan Porritt)

Who is responsible for the elephant in the room? An argument for federalism

There is an old joke in Canada, one that every university student is told early in the Introduction to Politics class. It goes like this: three students - one British, one French, and a Canadian - are…

Research and News (2)