Checks and balances
Australians often take the checks and balances offered by a federal system for granted. Yet this system has given us over 100 years of stable government.
Having governments at both State and Commonwealth level gives citizens more than one point of access into the system of government. It allows them to select different parties at different levels if they prefer their different approaches to policy issues. This allows for multiple centres of power and approaches between the States and Territories and the Commonwealth Government.
As well, the balance of power between different jurisdictions is a brake on radical and major change and means such major change cannot be undertaken without a degree of bipartisan support or debate and discussion.
Business Council of Australia (2006). Reshaping Australia's Federation: A New Contract for Federal-State Relations.
The Business Council of Australia argues:
"How well our federal system works is a key factor in Australia's growth and prosperity… Major reform also needs to be undertaken to define the roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states and embed greater cooperation, consensus and accountability in areas that are fundamental to our future prosperity."
This report proposes a 12-point plan, including a federal convention to help map out a new way forward for the future.
Gallop G (2008). The federation.
In: Mann R (ed), Dear Mr Rudd: Ideas for a Better Australia. Melbourne: Black Inc Agenda (pp 42-58).
One of the more interesting features of the 2007 election campaign was … [t]here was more interest and argument about our federal system than in any election since those of the Whitlam years.
Former Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop explores the debate between Kevin Rudd's ‘cooperative federalism’ and John Howard's ‘aspirational nationalism’, as articulated in the 2007 Federal Election, against the backdrop of the development of Commonwealth-State relations since the 1970s.
"The heart of the case for federalism", he writes, is that "it creates multiple centres of power and entrenches them in a constitution" (p. 48).