Mary Ann O’Loughlin: consider the federation in a more global context


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What does government responsibility mean in a globalised world? Ahead of a white paper on federation, the former COAG Reform Council chief adds some important context.

The Abbott government, with the states and territories, are having another crack at improving Commonwealth-state relations through a white paper that:

“… will seek to clarify roles and responsibilities to ensure that, as far as possible, the States and Territories are sovereign in their own sphere.”

The Prime Minister released the first issues paper last Friday, “A Federation for Our Future”. It raises for consideration the practicalities of limiting Commonwealth policies and funding to core national interest matters, as typified by the matters in section 51 of the constitution. For those not intimate with the constitution, section 51 includes matters such as trade, taxation, communications, marriage, coinage, pensions and allowances, medical services, defence, immigration, and external affairs.

But I question whether in 2014 we can neatly divide roles and responsibilities as originally laid out in the constitution in 1901.

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