Why Federation reform is more urgent than you think

Any true blooded Australian conservative can plainly see the almost existential crisis that is faced by the west. Increasing inflation coupled with obscenely bloated government deficits, the rise of belligerent hostile powers like China and the perpetuation by the left of destructive social theories, the 2020’s is seeming to threaten the very fabric of Western life. And it is patently obvious that Australia is not immune from this.

What is deeply disturbing though, is that our very systems of political organisation seem completely inept for allowing Australians to tackle these challenges. We have ended up in a situation where responsibilities between different levels of government resemble less the organised and clear divisions envisioned by our founders, and more a hodge podge that even your average Sydney Law student would struggle to unpack. From planning laws to education, taxation to welfare, the distribution of power is so unclear that it makes governance, let alone reform difficult to administer.

By minimising these areas of overlap, government can be more efficient, and bureaucracy is greatly simplified. No longer will we have to have sky high tax rates simply because multiple levels of government decide to do the exact same thing. Instead, individuals who know more about their personal circumstances can spend their own money whichever way they wish.

It is important to explain first what is federation reform. Federation reform is the simplification and clear division of governmental responsibilities between different levels of government. Although most proponents call for a legislative framework, I call for a constitutional framework to be adopted due to the constitution’s authority as Australia’s supreme source of law.

Federation reform also will force state governments to be accountable, particularly on the taxation front. By forcing state governments to fund all of their own expenditures, state governments cannot blame the federal government for their fiscal incompetence. As such, over the long term, Australia will have less Mark McGowans complaining about their share of the GST as this will become an irrelevant question, with a pathway paved instead out of the era of never ending deficits.

It is important to remember why we even have a federation in the first place: to ensure accountability and competition. With the increasing (and arguably unconstitutional) centralisation of powers in the federal government, Australians are devoid of choice in terms of lifestyle due to the lack of competitive federalism.

The fact we have gotten to the point where we need federation reform is concerning to say the least. Any attempt at federation reform must make clear that cases such as the Uniform Tax Case and the Tasmanian Dams Case (High Court judgements that expanded the federal government’s power) do not go through, or at least remain extremely narrow in scope. Without doing so, we risk ending up in the same situation we are in currently.

Federation reform has be done comprehensively and in complete. Any such process cannot be left in the middle, and nor can there be any ambiguity as to the responsibilities of different levels of government. It must be enshrined in the constitution, and have clear language to prevent any sort of judicial manipulation.

Fighting the left is impossible with the current system we have. The left will manipulate our distorted federation to paint principled conservative reform in a bad light by blaming different levels of government for their supposed incompetence. So many structural issues have solutions in plain sight, however our distorted federation prevents them from being implemented.

Satvik Sharma is the Treasurer of the University of Sydney Conservative Club. He is also a Councillor on the University of Sydney Student’s Representative Council, holding office-bearer positions as Environment and Global Solidarity officers. Satvik also sits on the University of Sydney’s Academic Board, and he sits as a student representative on the Business School Faculty Board.

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