Griffith University is to continue the Sir Samuel Griffith Legacy Series, building on a ground-breaking forum on Australia’s Federal Future which brought senior government officials together with federalism academics to forge a reform agenda.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian O’Connor, has announced the continuation of the series in 2014 when it will be hosted by Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy.
“It will maintain the momentum of this year’s event and will be underpinned by an ARC grant that continues a study of constitutional values, federal political culture and governance reform by Professor AJ Brown, Associate Professor Robyn Hollander and Dr Ron Levy.”
Professor O’Connor made the announcement at the Sir Samuel Griffith Forum on federalism at Parliament House in Brisbane, where Queensland Premier Campbell Newman called for an end to “waste and duplication” associated with the federal system.
Declaring himself decentralist, Premier Newman said the federalism debate is about roles and responsibilities. “We need to set the rules for which level of government delivers which services and infrastructure in the most efficient way possible,” he said.
“My concern is that Australia is one of the most centralised countries in the world. There is too much blurring of the lines. Over time federal government has pushed further and further into state territory. Funding should not be used to coerce states. This makes the situation worse.
“We need to find a way to make COAG work better. It needs to focus on the highest priorities. It is dysfunctional because it lacks a clear purpose.”
The Sir Samuel Griffith Series was established to promote debate about Australia’s Federal Future and bring forward proposals for reform. Organised by Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy and ANZSOG, it brought together some of the country’s top experts on government, federalism and constitutionalism.
The series started with a July symposium when 30 participants identified key drivers for reform. These were explored in a broader discussion at the Brisbane forum where CEDA chief executive, Professor Stephen Martin, said reform would require “articulate and courageous” leadership.
“Australia is facing challenges to remain economically competitive in the region during the next 20 years, and the consequences could be dire,” he said. “Currently, in the Australian community, there is an expectation that all services will be delivered by government.
“It’s a challenge for government at all levels. Is there another tier at local, community level that can take responsibility? The burden of reform should be shared with the benefits of reform.”
The discussion was facilitated by Associate Professor Anne Tiernan, Griffith University and ANZSOG, and included contributions from leading experts like Professor Nicholas Aroney (University of Queensland), Helen Silver, (Chief General Manager Workers’ Compensation, Allianz), Professor Alan Fenna (Curtin University), Professor George Williams (University of NSW), Greg Smith (Commonwealth Grants Commission), Professor Glenn Withers AO (Australian National University), Professor AJ Brown (Griffith University Centre for Governance and Public Policy), Rob Neale, (Queensland Resources Council), and Julie Novak (Institute of Public Affairs).
Delegates from state governments in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia also participated in a debate which ranged from size of government to the accommodation of cultural diversity, to negotiations between states and Commonwealth and the power imbalance that exists.
Professor Haig Patapan, Director of Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, congratulated the Queensland Premier for his intellectual contribution to the debate and thanked him for “making room for deliberation and debate”.
“This is essential to securing policy,” he said. “Federalism is not a dry topic because we are dealing with important issues at a crucial time. We can make a significant difference.”
Jenny Menzies, adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Public Policy, said the forum had set the scene for the first COAG meeting in December with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister.
“I am confident it can contribute to COAG discussions in an effective and far-reaching way, and also to the imminent White Paper on federal reform,” she said.