No More Power to Canberra II

There’s an interesting discussion going on the Howardian power grab vis-a-vis the states over at Catallaxy sparked off by the resident representative of the Carlton-living, latte right Federalist faction of the Liberal Party, that is to say, Andrew Norton. Atypically for recent Catallaxy comments threads, it involves little discussion of Princess Mary or Karl Popper. Dave Ricardo made a good point – why aren’t the State Liberal oppositions screaming? After all, if any of them get back into government (and the NSW Libs’ chances would have to be rated – the rest seem very remote from power) they’ll be reduced to branch managers or local councillors.

What occurred to me, as well, is the silence of the Nats. In Queensland, at least, parochialism and states rights stuff has always played very well regardless of the government’s political complexion. Peter Beattie, consciously modelling himself on Sir Joh, is a master. State election campaigns always feature ads by the Labor Party denouncing the evils of Canberra, and the Nats squirm. Given that the Queensland Nats have always fancied themselves as a somewhat contrary mob, and have made noises about Telstra, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of the Howardians’ centralist moves are checkmated in the Senate by Ron Boswell and his mates. After all, the Queensland Nats – agrarian socialists one and all – have always opposed privatisation at state level, (rightly) recognising the disincentives for the private provision of services in an extremely large and decentralised state. It seems to me that the same arguments could easily be mounted federally. It’ll be interesting.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Guy
Guy
2022 years ago

Let’s hope the Nats put up something of a fight. Lord knows we have little where else to turn in order to protect the country from the implementation of Howard’s reform agenda.

Do you think it could just be wishful thinking Mark? :)

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

State governments haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory. What have they done to make us think that the Federal Government would do a worse job? Besides, think of the benefits of removing all the cost shifting and blame shifting that goes on between the states and the feds.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Alex, if you’d ever attempted to implement a policy designed in Canberra with little regard for its feasibility at the service delivery level, you’d probably realise that it’s as much about responsiveness of the bureaucracy as the virtues of state and federal governments, which of course in a democracy, we can disagree about.

Guy, I hope so. The Qld Nats have shown in the past they can play a strong hand well, and they’ll have to have an eye on their local constituency, I’d have thought.

liam hogan
2022 years ago

To quote the Simpsons, Mark, the Queensland Nats will fold faster than Superman on laundry day.
Independent conservatives couldn’t do any better than the hopeless Nationals they’ve got, and everyone knows that. So they’ll give in, to save face and continue existing as a Party.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’m not sure I agree, Liam. They’re hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the Senate – under threat from the Liberals and Family First, and possibly the Greens depending on how the 6th spot plays out next time when Boswell’s up for re-election. They have to distinguish themselves from the Libs and to do so in a populist manner to survive at all as a viable Federal party in Queensland.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

And I should add the Demos if they make a recovery. Andrew Bartlett’s up for re-election too next time.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
2022 years ago

Flogging off Telstra provides the ultimate test for the Nats. No matter how they parcel it up, it’s clearly not in the interests of country Australia, and they know it.

That explains a lot of the restless noises lately, even Anderson hinting that he’s not happy. On radio recently I even heard an idea that started I think with Lindsay Tanner some time ago.

That is, maybe Telstra could be divvied up, with the govt maintaining control of the network infrastructure, and the private corporation owning the retailing/customer service section.

That way there is still some political influence on transmitting stations, optic cables and so forth, while Telstra will have to compete more equally with other retailers, albeit still enjoying a size/market share advantage.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Mark, I was in the bureaucracy for quite a long time (in Canberra too!). Far too often these days the bureaucrats are caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to work out how on earth to implement some mad policy dreamed up by the politicians and their advisors. One of the reasons I left. Don’t blame the bureaucrats for all the unworkability of govt policies.

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

So on that basis Alex what makes you think the gederal government could do better?

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

Ooops! little gremlin, that should be Federal government.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

I don’t think they necessarily will. But I doubt if they will do much worse. And I’m a bit sick of the constant buckpassing, particularly in the health area.