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Wrong time for a debate on states’ powers

22/03/2019 南京夜网 0

TREASURER Peter Costello put the cat among the pigeons this week when he suggested the Federal Government needed to wrestle more power from the states.Mr Costello believes a Federal Government should control tax collection, schools, hospitals and ports.If he was expecting strong support from his Coalition colleagues, he would have been disappointed.Most of them said nothing. The Prime Minister went out of his way to water down the comments.”I’m not convinced that if the Federal Government ran public hospitals they’d necessarily be any more efficient,” he said by way of dilution.Not surprisingly, the state governments lambasted the notion that they should hand over some of their powers to the Commonwealth.Premier Steve Bracks described Mr Costello’s comments as “ill-thought out”.There is no doubt that, if we were to set up a system of government for Australia from scratch, as our forefathers did more than a century ago, it would be most likely be a vastly different one to what we have now.Times have changed since our federal, state and local government systems came into being. It would be easy to mount an argument that we need to restructure our three-tiered system of government.The debate about whether or not we need the states at all has been around for years. Simply abolishing the states, however, would not create a better system. Local government as it exists now is not equipped to handle becoming the second tier. There would also need to be a significant restructure of local councils across the country.That is not something Australia is ready for right now.Mr Costello may well believe calling back some of the powers of the states is a more viable alternative in the shorter term.And, whatever his motives, he obviously thought it worth putting on the table.The lukewarm response should see it disappear pretty quickly.Now is not the time for this debate. Perhaps, in the future, when Australia becomes a republic, it might be more timely to look at whether or not there’s a better system of government.
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