Archive for April 17th, 2008

The political decline of federalism

Polling on federalism is pretty rare, but in a new ANU Poll they have replicated a 1979 question that asked:

Do you think the state governments should give some powers to the federal government, or do you think the federal government has enough powers already?

In the last 30 years, the proportion of people thinking that more powers should be given to the feds has more than doubled, from 17% to 40%. Unfortunately, respondents were not asked which powers should be handed over.

On the question of whether the federal government should provide more money to the states, the proportion opposing it increased from 30% to 38%, perhaps because respondents doubt it would be spent competently.

The second question highlights, however, what is wrong with Australian federalism – not so much the formal division of powers, but the states’ reliance on federal funding. Until that is fixed, the system will never work.