Federalism in Australia: A Concept in Search of Understanding
(2011) 17(2) Journal of Contemporary Issues in Business and Government 1-18
18 Pages Posted: 17 May 2013 Last revised: 25 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2011
This article examines an issue of fundamental importance to both business and government: the nature of Australian federalism. Federalism in Australia is a concept under attack with pejorative labels such as 'dysfunctional', 'inefficient', 'coercive' and 'opportunistic' increasingly being used to describe its practical operation. Language games amidst political debates are part of a healthy democratic polity. However, such labels may also betray a deeper malaise – an inadequate understanding or appreciation of the concept of federalism. This article examines the nature and operation of Australian federalism and builds a useful framework through which the concept can be better understood and its practical operation analysed. This framework reinforces that one of Australian federalism’s key strengths is its flexibility – that there are a number of different modes of federalism from which governments can choose to address a particular policy issue – and that reform initiatives should be designed to leverage this strength, and not proceed on the assumption that there is one optimal or best approach.
Keywords: Federalism, Taxonomy, Theory, Practice, Modes
JEL Classification: K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation