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Articles on federation

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Though illegal, fortune telling was only sporadically prosecuted. Here, two women set up tents at the 1913 Adelaide Children’s Hospital fete. State Library of SA

Did they see it coming? How fortune-telling took hold in Australia - with women as clients and criminals

In the early 1900s, fortune-telling provided entertainment, social connection and a job for some Australians. Its legal status made criminals of women, yet allowed others entry to the police force.
Successive governments have seen the Great Barrier Reef not just as a scientific wonder, but as a channel to further economic development. Superjoseph/Shutterstock.com

Politicised science on the Great Barrier Reef? It’s been that way for more than a century

The $444 million awarded to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has been criticised as a politically calculated move. But governments have been asking what the reef can do for them ever since colonial times.
In jettisoning Alfred Deakin, the Liberals made a great mistake and showed the thinness of their historical memory. National Library of Australia

What Malcolm Turnbull might have learned from Alfred Deakin

Like Malcolm Turnbull, the three-time prime minister Alfred Deakin was sometimes accused of lacking substance, but he had core political commitments from which he never wavered.
Delegates to the Australasian Federation Conference, Melbourne, 1890, where being white, male and bearded was standard form. National Library of Australia

How Australia became a nation, and women won the vote

This year is the 120th anniversary of the Australasian Federal Convention through which, with rancour, prejudices and vested interests, the Australian nation was eventually born.
The British parliament passed the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act in 1900. Museum of Australian Democracy

Australian politics explainer: the writing of our Constitution

Australia's Constitution is a product of foreign and domestic political influences. It has become one of the enduring aspects of Australian politics and law, for better and worse.
Choosing Cairns or Townsville as a northern Queensland capital would set off a political storm, as would new regional governments around Australia. Dan Peled/AAP

If we scrapped the states, increasing Canberra’s clout would be a backward step

Federal politicians and the public like the idea of abolishing the states. But consider the likely result: a more powerful Canberra, with regional governments amounting to glorified shire councils.
Without metropolitan governance that is responsive to city residents’ wishes, states are much influenced by federal priorities – that is, by the money on offer. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Metropolitan governance is the missing link in Australia’s reform agenda

Representative and accountable metropolitan government is needed to lead metro-scale planning, infrastructure investment and services, and partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, meeting with state leaders today, says if we were starting from scratch we’d tax differently. Lukas Coch/AAP

Australia doesn’t need eight different income tax rates

There's no need to abandon the current tax collection system. Instead we should ensure the voting public understand where their taxes are going.
Malcolm Turnbull may struggle to persuade Daniel Andrews and some other state leaders to back major tax change, though Mike Baird has been arguing for reform. Sam Mooy/AAP

Turnbull faces his most taxing test yet: wooing the states to overhaul the GST

Despite all the media coverage, don't expect any clear decisions on national tax reform on Friday. But we should see more progress on other issues, including domestic violence and violent extremism.
Today’s state and territory leaders have an opportunity to emulate the founders of the federation and make history by breathing new life into Australia’s system of government. AAP/Lukas Coch

Rebalancing government in Australia to save our federation

Federation in 1901 is now the middle point between 2014 and the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Despite this, most views of federation, if Australians have one at all, are probably shaped by its…

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