Unhealthy federalism

This morning’s ACNielsen poll attracted most attention for adding another week to Labor’s remarkable lead in the polls, but it also reported some interesting issue polling.

Alas, support for federalism – at least so far as it concerns hospitals – is no stronger than the Coalition primary vote. 40% think that it would be better if hospitals were run by the states, compared to 42% who think the federal government should do it.

I doubt that this is an ideological thing; federalism (as opposed to parochial concerns with ‘state’s rights’) has never really been widely understood among the politically active, much less the masses. It is a pragmatic assessment of which level of government seems most competent, with 55% of those polled agreeing that the health system is ‘not very well run’, and nearly twice as many people (46%) blame the states for this as blame the federal government (24%).

Personally, I doubt the federal government would do a better job. The Canberra bureaucracy has relatively little experience of service delivery compared to their state counterparts, and with the added disadvantage of being very remote from the places they need to service. The one advantage of the otherwise poor policy on display in Mersey hospital takeover may be to provide evidence that the Commonwealth does no better at running hospitals than the states.