Little separates the major parties when it comes to the centralisation of power.
SINCE at least the early 1970s, under Labor and Liberal/Coalition administrations, Australia has been exorbitantly over-governed; and there’s no sign of things changing.
Among other things, this means taxes will continue to rise, which is why the Rudd government now has its Henry Tax Report in a bottom draw.
That’s also why it has considered snatching 30 per cent of the state governments’ GST allocations, which Canberra collects on their behalf.
And it also helps explain why the Tony Abbott-led Liberals have begun hurriedly rolling-out their big taxing plans.
Election 2010 will be a battle between the two big-taxing parties – a tax-bidding and vote-buying tussle unlike anything you’ve ever seen to date.
Mr Abbott’s $2.7 billion tax on 3,200 targeted big-end-of-town businesses, via a 1.7 per cent levy on those whose income exceeds $5 million, to bankroll a universal paid parental leave scheme was just the opening gambit.
Mr Abbott is also set to remove Labor’s $150,000 cap on tax deductions, so high-income earners can qualify for the ‘baby bonus’.
And these come after his already announced four-year, $3.2 billion emissions reduction program.
The only up-side of that whopping slug is that it’s cheaper than the Rudd emissions scheme Liberal predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, and deputy Julie Bishop backed, which was to have cost $40.6 billion over four years with a merry-go-round of so-called big emitter subsidies.
Election 2010 will thus be a media and spin jamboree featuring big-taxing Kevin and big-taxing Tony.
The one thing that’s assured is that taxes won’t be falling; the only question is by how much they will rise and who’ll be paying.
Put otherwise, Canberra, to bankroll its incessant drive for greater bureaucratic overload and administrative over-reach, must find piggy banks galore to raid – be they your pay packet, the states’ GST allocation, or by targeting employers via boosted corporate taxes or so-called levies.
There’s no other way of ensuring the intrusive Canberra juggernaut’s coffers remain topped-up now that Mr Rudd has been stymied by the Liberals’ belated dumping of Mr Turnbull, which means the carbon tax on all energy usage seems doomed.
Now State Scene isn’t so short sighted as to argue that the eight state and territory governments shouldn’t share some of the blame for our over-governance.
But the major culprit remains forever-expanding Canberra.
Put otherwise, it’s the Labor Party, as led by Messrs Whitlam (1972-75); Hawke (1983-91); Keating (1991-96) and now Rudd (2007-09), plus the John Howard-led Liberals (1996-2007), which are together responsible for Canberra’s expensive expansiveness, ongoing bureaucratic overload and over-reach.
In the year leading up to the 2007 federal election Mr Rudd talked of co-operative federalism, which has turned out to be nothing more than spin.
As one editorialist, commenting on the drive to expel state government involvement in Australia’s 750 hospitals, said: “So much for co-operative federalism.
“Before the election, Kevin Rudd explained how he respected what the states did and that the best way to govern Australia was for all governments to work together.
“Now he is spoiling for a fight with the premiers, warning them to either agree to his hospital plan or get out of the way.”
The Rudd government sits firmly in the centralising mould embraced most especially by Messrs Whitlam and Howard, both Sydneysiders and the two most unsympathetic prime ministers state governments have encountered so far.
The incessant drive by the leaders of both major party blocs to keep augmenting Canberra’s powers prompted one observer to describe this as the emergence of an “unlimited administrative state”.
“Our Australian government once limited to certain core functions now dominates virtually every area of our life,” the observer said.
“Its authority is all-but unquestioned, and those who dare question face the wrath of legal threats.
“Parliament passes extensive legislation with little serious deliberation for bills that are written in secret and generally unread before being voted into legislation.”
Equally telling is retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan’s observation in his essay, ‘Concentrating Power’, in the just-released book, The Howard Era, that focuses upon the major parties’ drive to crowd-out, duplicate and displace state constitutional responsibilities as precursors to boosting taxes.
“I suspect that there is a cell of lawyers in the federal Attorney-General’s Department who regularly engage in a form of war games (constitutional),” he wrote.
“Unlike in the war games of a nation’s armed services, there is only one battlefield for them, and one enemy, and that enemy is never the invader. And rarely the aggressor.
“The designated battlefield is the Australian Constitution, and the enemy is the states.”
With Canberra now dominating the education, environment, transport and health, and set to further intrude into health plus local government, there will soon be nothing left for state governments to do.
And it’s only a matter of time before the Federal Police envelop state police forces .
After that, the question to ask is when will state parliaments be mothballed? Why continue having state parliaments and all those nothing-left-to-do state politicians when Canberra has its finger in every pie?
Let’s only have obsequious federal politicians who’ll do the bidding for that tiny band of Canberra-based lawyers from the Attorney-Generals Department who conspire to do away with the states entirely.
Now, State Scene, is prepared to surrender to that scheming coterie of lawyers who have transformed their Canberra-based Labor and Liberal administrations into conspiring puppets if we could be assured the outcome was improved governance and cheaper and leaner administration.
State Scene is willing to drop all historically based sentimentality about having state governments if Canberra’s administrative record was something to write home about.
Unfortunately it’s not, and in several crucial areas it’s lousy.
Australia’s six states created in 1901 a federal government to oversee defence, immigration, trade and communication.
Here’s what The Australian’s defence correspondent, Cameron Steward, wrote last month: “The nation’s air combat force has withered to its smallest size in a generation, with less than half of the country’s fighter jets available for operations.
“At times this year as many as three out of four of the RAAF’s 86 fighter jets have been grounded due to maintenance, upgrades or safety concerns.
“Of those warplanes that are available, only a handful can be sent into combat because they do not yet have sufficient electronic protection to survive against modern air defences.”
And the Rudd government plans to buy 100 more fighters.
Another recent report revealed that five of Australia’s six Collins-Class submarines weren’t fully operational.
And Mr Rudd plans to double the submarine fleet.
What about the incompetence with respect to boat people coming to Australia via Indonesian waters?
We have an Immigration Department, diplomatic corp, intelligence services and Federal Police, all with international links. Yet these Canberra-based agencies have failed dismally in securing our borders.
Isn’t it time Canberra firstly mastered administering what it was created to do before trying to take over the states’ responsibilities?
If Canberra stopped devouring state responsibilities and did what it was created to do, we, the voters, would get better governance and lower taxes.