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The states are redundant

By Patrick Baume - posted Tuesday, 4 September 2007

One hundred and fifty years ago Australia was six separate colonies that each had stronger transport and social links with “home”, mother country England, than they did with each other. The states that developed out of the colonies were the logical progression 100 years ago.

Things change, however, and the woeful state of infrastructure across Australian cities and regional areas after an unprecedented 15 years of continuous economic growth and record tax revenues is all the argument needed for why the state governments not only should, but must, go.

There is no logic to state government in Australia in 2007. There is no particular community of interest between Sydney and Broken Hill, Albany and Broome, or Toowoomba and Cairns, and they have widely disparate economic and social priorities. Add to this the absurd state of affairs where one level of government raises most of the revenue and another level of government spends most of it, and you realise why we have the situation we have now.


Peter Beattie, perhaps not in the detail, but definitely in the purpose, is right about council amalgamations. It is only through a far more professional and properly resourced level of local government that Australia can be governed properly, for the benefit of all its citizens, not just those in marginal State or Federal seats.

There is already a clear and easy separation of responsibilities between a national level of government and councils, with the Commonwealth taking over police, schools, hospitals, main roads, major transport systems and utilities (all of which they already have a significant financial interest in), while strong, financially viable councils are left to deal with providing appropriate services to the local community, without having to compete with the needs of towns or cities thousands of kilometres away.

The main benefit of removing state governments is not the reduction in bureaucracy (although this should occur to some extent), it is the removal of the ever more polished art of blame shifting that we have had to endure from both federal and state politicians for 106 years. It also removes our own tendency to have a bet each way at state and federal elections, which further decreases any chance of efficient service delivery.

It would also significantly improve councils, who have already been forced by economic reality to amalgamate and/or privatise many services such as garbage collection and dog pounds. The ridiculous and seemingly infinite variations in regulations from one council to the next would be lessened.

We would also be blessedly relieved from an entire layer of professional politicians at state level and most of those (mostly) well-meaning amateur politicians at local level. If any of you have doubts about this being a benefit, I highly recommend the ABC documentary Rats in the Ranks.

Many will be screaming about the dangers of all that unfettered power centred in Canberra, what terrible things will happen if the other side gets in and (according to your preference) destroys the working man; cripples the economy; turns us into a police state; lets political correctness run wild; or whatever conspiracy theory you prefer.


I refer those people to our bicameral system. The Senate may be (barely) in the Government’s control at the moment, but that is extremely rare and has been shown to be electorally detrimental to the party that holds and uses such power. The status quo of the Senate is no majority control, providing an effective modifying influence on executive power. This could be assured if the Senate was made truly nationally proportional.

Australians may care about State of Origin football and Warney being a Victorian, and there’s no reason why those nominal distinctions can’t remain, although we should all care more about having hospitals that work, buses and trains that run and schools that are properly resourced.

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About the Author

Patrick Baume is a Media Analyst who blogs on politics and sport at

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