Latest Constitutional Values Survey released

Headshot of Professor AJ Brown, Griffith University
Professor AJ Brown, Centre for Governance and Public Policy

A continuing collapse in confidence in Australia’s federal level of government is placing extra pressure on Tony Abbott’s plans to reform the federation, and shows his pledge to restore public trust and confidence is yet to gain traction.

The fourth biennial Australian Constitutional Values Survey, conducted by Newspoll for Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy, has been released today (Friday) as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meets in Canberra.

It reveals confidence levels have not bounced back since Mr Abbott took office just over a year ago. Instead, for the first time since the survey commenced in 2008, the federal level has become the level of government which citizens trust least to do a good job.

“If Australians’ love affair with the federal government as the cure to all problems is genuinely over, this increases the pressure on Tony Abbott and the states to cooperate on real, durable reform that leads to better outcomes for citizens,” said Professor A J Brown, who leads the research.

Previously conducted in 2008, 2010 and 2012, the Australian Constitutional Values Survey is now established as the public scorecard on the Australian federation.

“Where there was once a widespread belief in the Commonwealth’s ability to step in and overcome the problems of cumbersome state governments and weak local government, it is now less clear that citizens have any level of government in which to place solid confidence.”

The 2014 survey shows more than one in three people still consider Australia’s three-tiered system of government as not working well, with overall disaffection with the system holding steady when compared with the 2012 survey.

Professor Rodney Smith, of the University of Sydney and also a member of the national survey team, noted there was some improvement in confidence in the ability of federal and state governments to collaborate better, but 50 per cent of citizens still consider this isn’t happening, and overall support for reform of the system remains high.

“With 29 per cent saying democracy is not working well — double the number in 2010, and a further drop of 5 per cent on the 2012 result — there is good reason to examine serious federal reform,” Professor Smith said.

Professor Brown said that the royal commissions into home insulation and Trade Union Governance and Corruption were probably working against Mr Abbott’s plans to rebuild confidence in the federal level.

“The pressure is on, from a public opinion perspective, for the federal reform white paper process to deliver something of real substance that amounts to meaningful reform,” he concluded.

More results will be released tomorrow, and be explored further at the annual Sir Samuel Griffith ‘State of the Federation’ Symposium in Brisbane on Friday next (Oct 17).

Results details: