THEY SAY it CAN’T be DONE – CAN’T it JUST?!
A modified Position Paper by Peter Consandine, National Secretary, Abolish State Governments! (The Community Republicans), first delivered at The Launch of The Aboiish State Governments! political party for the March 2003 NSW Upper House Election Campaign, North Ryde, NSW 2113, on Tuesday, 20 March 2001
There’s a famous Australian joke, which in many variations, has been around since Federation. It is the story of an International Conference held to consider the endangered plight of African and Indian elephants. After a week of ‘gabfesting’ about the matter a group of leading academics from five countries: Great Britain, France, Germany, the United States of America and Australia were engaged to write chapters for a public relations-oriented book on the urgent matter of saving the endangered elephants.
From the British there followed: ‘ELEPHANTS & EMPIRE – 1000 YEARS of GLORY’;
From the French: ‘THE SENSUAL & EXISTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS of ELEPHANTS’;
From the Germans: ‘THE TRAINING & DISCIPLINE of ELEPHANTS’;
From the Americans there followed two chapters…the East Coast academic group came up with: ‘RAISING ELEPHANTS for FUN & PROFIT’ whilst their West Coast counterparts came up with:
‘THE JOY of ELEPHANTS’.
Then, from the Australians there followed: ‘ELEPHANTS – FEDERAL or STATE RESPONSIBILITY?’!
The deduction which can be made, of course, is: If we had no State Governments – then it would only be a Federal or a National responsibility.
Then, there’s a notorious Australian response to the well-worn perennial question: ‘We’re overgoverned and we know we’re overgoverned so why don’t we Abolish the State Governments’? The Response: ‘Yeah, sure, it’s a great idea but you’d never get the State governments to agree to abolishing themselves – it’ll never happen’!
Let me make it crystal clear…Abolishing the State Governments is a great idea. But more than that…it is an idea whose time has come. Pundits, academics, journalists, newspaper columnists, reporters, editorialists and letter writers allude to the matter constantly, albeit, sometimes unwittingly. Furthermore, it can happen – indeed, I believe that the existing monarchical Australian Constitution gives us the scope to develop the idea into a plan.
Firstly though, it will be instructive to revisit the year 1975 – nearly two generations ago. Most adult Australians will recall the political and constitutional crisis which led to the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government. However, what else of political relevance or importance occurred that year?
Who remembers the radical but practicable Australian Assistance Plan (AAP) which Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his Ministers were selling at public meetings the length and breadth of the country in that turbulent year?
It rarely gets a mention these days. Nevertheless, Gough and Company were arch-advocates of directly funding Local & Municipal governments (the 3rd tier of governance) from Canberra. The AAP was fundamentally about bypassing the State governments. The program excited a lot of then Aldermen/Councillors and local community groups Australia-wide. The State Premiers – to a man (and they were ALL men until then) – and the then Federal Opposition – were unimpressed and downright hostile to the Prime Minister’s proposals. Naturally, because Local Government has always been the vassal of State governments – with most State governments having constitutional sovereignty over the Local governments of their particular States. Needless to say…(but) with the dismissal of Gough, the AAP ‘went west’ with him!
Purely academic it is, but the once-great political party of ideas and reforms – The Australian Labor Party (ALP) – seriatim, removed Federal Land Tax (what we describe today as Land Value Taxation) from its Federal Platform (by wilful omission); abandoned its policy on abolishing ALL Upper Houses and opted out of the government system reform debate, seemingly forever.
I am, in many respects, an Old Labor Man. Candidly, I was a card-carrying Member of the ALP from early January, 1975 to mid-June, 1980 and I have been quite saddened that my old party has seemingly lost its way on the government system reform front. I am also distressed that the Labor Party – in its many manifestations (Country Labor, 3rd Way Labor and Knowledge Nation Labor) – has conveniently allowed Section #101 of The Australian Constitution to remain dormant. And, co-incidentally, constitutional law instructors and lecturers have allowed Section #101 of The Australian Constitution to remain disguised.
Section #101 states, verbatim: ‘There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder’ The Inter-State Commission was meant to be the 4th arm of administration in federated Australia – on a perpetual basis.
How can we bring this magic section to life? How do we give it ‘legs’? Well, I have some serious suggestions to make on this score and I have – to an extent – saved them up until this juncture while I have systematically tested the electoral marketplace over the past fourteen years to determine if this aspect of constitutional law needs new light shed upon it.
My joint concerns are ‘the problem of overgovernment’ and ‘the failure of federalism’. These concerns go back to the late 1970s when I was dually serving as a local representative on a relatively small municipal authority whilst trying to gain an Urban Studies degree at Macquarie University – as a mature-aged student. A New South Wales Local Government Boundaries Commission Report was published and disseminated in 1979. It recommended wholesale amalgamations of NSW Councils, Statewide. In my opinion, it was an impressive report which was faithfully sponsored and promoted by the then NSW Local Government Minister Harry Jensen (another Old Labor Man, incidentally).
Yes, that well-documented report was brought down and met with the same kind of reaction as the Professor Kevin Sproats Inquiry into the efficacy of establishing one super-Sydney Region (by amalgamating eight inner-city municipalities into one received in 2001 and which the report brought down by Tim Williams into something along the same lines in 2012 – just this year – with the usual rent-a-crowds staging of ‘Protest Rallies’; holding of unofficial and deceptive local referendums and the like – with their lobby groups: The Local Government and Shires Associations churning out misinformation – in ‘scare tactics’ fashion – by the truckload.
My Council was to form part of REGION 17. Strathfield was to be amalgamated with the contiguous Municipalities of Burwood, Concord, Ashfield and Drummoyne. In retrospect, I was the only serving alderman of the five Councils involved, to publicly speak of the merits of the said report. I was a ‘Black Sheep’ I literally had to temper my pro-amalgamation remarks in the re-election material I prepared in 1980. Irrespective, everyone that mattered in the Inner West of Sydney, knew where I stood on the issue.
When the Republican Party of Australia (RPA – ASGS!’ Big Brother Party) was formed in January of 1982, the two-tier system of governance plank formed part of the original 10-point platform although it was not forcefully promoted until March 1991 when I wrote and self- published, in booklet form, my position paper: ‘The Regional Co-Operative Government Plan for Australia’ which is now out-of-print but is in the throes of a re-write.
At National Conventions of The RPA in Sydney (1989) and Perth (1992) respectively, I co-opted widely-renowned reformist academics Dean Jaensch and David Black to write position papers on the inter-related subjects of ‘The Failure of Australian Federalism’ and ‘Secession: Could Another State Attempt It?’ to complement my own efforts on the inter-related issues.
In effect, we have come through the Formative Period (1979 – 1998) and the Preliminary Period (1998 – 2008). The Formative Period, per se, has been outlined, albeit sketchily. The Preliminary Period has been comprised of the introduction of esoteric author Rodney Hall’s magnificent little red book – our bestseller – ‘ABOLISH the STATES!’; the trial run of The Abolish State Governments! Party in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 NSW State Upper House elections; the mass collection of signatures onto a quite popular petition: ‘Regional Governments A.S.A.P.’- which calls for a C.O.A.G. Parliamentary Inquiry into the true cost of ‘overgovernment’; a wide-ranging distribution of our Party Constitution which, categorically, champions REGIONAL REPUBLICANISM; the establishing of the groundwork for Abolish State Governments! Party chapters in ten regional cities so far; Orientation Week activity on six NSW University campuses and a new website. This all amounts to the bold and beautiful ‘SHED-A-TIER!’ campaign and I am supremely confident we are on a winning way with it!
We are ‘making history’! We are now 4 years into the Revolutionary Period. We are ‘off and running’ with a fully-fledged effort in our continuing ‘Shed a Tier!’ campaign in tandem with the ongoing ‘Regional Republican’ campaign. It is inexorable and undiminishing.
We should not underestimate the ‘cred’ we have already earned.
The body politic wants less politicians, less bureaucracy, less colonial overhang, less feather-bedding, less cronyism and less Two Party Sham Democracy (‘Tweedledee & Tweedledum’). If we are even partly successful in our endeavours, we may be able to convince the body politic that we could do with less parochialism and less ‘nimbyism’ as well. Time will tell.
It is a Revolution alright! Future historians will credit Abolish State Governments! (The Community Republicans) as having been the real pioneers on the fronts of:
Sustainable decentralisation schemes with attendant, successful Growth Centres
Multi-party democracy and modern, European-style policy and legislation making
Cohesive land management practices
Two Tiers of Governance…but most of all – as Rodney Hall’s book demonstrates –
Equitable direct taxation structures with $33 Billion plus tax windfalls – on a continuing, annual basis – with the GST tax regime phased out (over 5-7 years) into the bargain.
The Concept: Abolishing the State governments is now overdue. Government System reform is inextricably linkled with land management and ecological taxation reform.
‘Can’t be done huh? Can’t it just?! A refurbished, re-constituted AAP will be the vehicle!
We need disciples and educators. We need to take on board what our two Canberran authorities namely Mark Drummond and Barrie Smillie have had to contribute to the debate regarding modelling etc. Additionally, we need to consult with the three remaining/living experts on the Inter-State Commission namely: Gough Whitlam, Michael Coper and Leslie Zines. In turn, we will need to write a definitive Section #101 position paper for careful consideration before logging that onto our website and taking it to the streets and campuses of tertiary learning. Not to mention the business forums and the Parliaments of Australia!
It is a gargantuan task – but the more people working on it, the lighter the load. Therefore, I cordially invite you to take up the challenge with us…the challenge of removing one tier of governance and establishing in its place a streamlined system of Regional Republicanism.
I will end by (a) paraphrasing a well-known marketing company’s slogan: ‘Let Me Show You How!’
and (b) attempting to encourage you by cornering a popular ABC radio program of the same name in declaring: ‘It’s in The National Interest’!!
Copyright 2012. Writer, Publisher & Holder of Copyright: PETER CONSANDINE
Phones: (02) 9899 5474 & (0408) 408 148; Fax: (02) 9894 5686
email: email@example.com Website: therepublicans.com.au