Some of Australia’s leading academic experts on federalism have linked up with government officials for the Sir Samuel Griffith Legacy Series on Australia’sFederal Future.

The series, run by Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and Griffith University, examins the federation as it functions today and investigates the need for and potential implementation of reform. A summary paper capturing key insights about reform needs and opportunities was developed following a July symposium in Brisbane. This will inform a broader discussion of federalism across the nation including a follow-up showcase event, the inaugural Sir Samuel Griffith Forum at Queensland’s Parliament House on November 20.

The series has also gathered a body of knowledge about Australia’s federal future. It can be viewed at the Our Federal Future website. Other highlights include:

Right time to reform ‘discretionary’ grant system

Jonathan Pincus, Visiting Professor of Economics at University of Adelaide, argues the case for a substantial reduction in large and conditional grants made by the Commonwealth to the states and territories. Professor Pincus and Henry Ergas, University of Wollongong, published a paper proposing three fundamental reforms to the system of grants. “Given that the Commonwealth faces the prospect of a long series of sizeable budget deficits, with the attendant imperative of future surpluses, this may be an opportune time for a reduction in the drain on Commonwealth general revenues caused by grants to the states and territories,” Professor Pincus said. “These are grants that are directed at specific states for specific purposes or under specific conditions, and which lead to overlap and duplication and to a blurring of political responsibilities.” Read More

Urgent political leadership required for ‘broken’ federal system

Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales says the absence of policies is now a major hindrance to Australia realising its federal potential. Professor Williams has also renewed a proposal to establish an expert research body to develop and drive federal reform policy. “We need to plan for a federal system that performs better than the one we are heading to, which is one in which the states continue to drift into irrelevance and unsustainability,” he said. “This is a path that will miss out on many of the benefits that our federal system could offer.” Read More

Federal system needs ‘next generation’ examination

Australia’s federal system of government is important to its citizens, but it is a system they clearly want to function a lot more effectively.Professor of Public Policy and Law at Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, AJ Brown, says that a decrease in public satisfaction with how the federal system is working during the past five years indicates a growing need for more durable solutions to the challenges facing and hindering Australia’s federal system. Professor Brown will lead a further study of constitutional values, federal political culture and governance reform following the award of a $700,000 ARC Discovery Project grant. Since 2008, he has tracked public opinion through the Australian Constitutional Values Survey. “Australians’ federal political culture was stable across the three surveys, even though basic satisfaction with the federal system significantly declined,” Professor Brown said. Read More

Federalism debate overlaid by ignorance

Ignorance and defeatism are overshadowing the debate on federalism in Australia, a leading constitutional lawyer has told a Brisbane symposium. “When it comes to Australia’s system of government, the general community is, by and large, woefully ignorant,” Professor George Williams, University of New South Wales, said. “It is clear that the community knows little and understands less about Australia’s federal system. “This extends well beyond the community. Media reporting of federal issues can often be shallow, and my experience is that few politicians have a sound grasp of the fundamentals.” Professor Williams said it was not surprising that public debate about federal reform was often driven by simplistic slogans and superficial thinking. Read More

Symposium has federation in its sights

The Sir Samuel Griffith Symposium on Australia’s Federal Future was a one-day event on July 26, run by Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and hosted by Griffith University. It examined the federation as it works today and investigated the need for and potential implementation of reform. Read More

Federal reform in need of political attention

Australians face a crisis of confidence in their system of government unless political leaders put more effort into charting a more constructive future for the federal system, according to the latest results from the Constitutional Values Survey. Conducted in 2008, 2010 and most recently in October 2012, the results were issued today (Saturday, November 17) by lead researcher Professor A J Brown of Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy. “Two-thirds of Australians (66%) do not believe federal and state governments are working well together,” Professor Brown said. Read More