Reforming Australian Federalism: The White Paper Process in Comparative Perspective
Mark Bruerton, Robyn Hollander and Ron Levy (eds), A People’s Federation (Federation Press) Forthcoming
15 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2016
Date Written: June 16, 2016
The White Paper on the Reform of the Federation promised an inclusive and effective pathway to a strengthened federal system. It offered a path to increasing efficiency, reduction in cyclical policy fluctuations, better balancing of fiscal equalisation and fiscal responsibility, clarification and untangling of responsibilities, and simplification of the administration of federal grants. But after less than two years effort, the project was shelved.
When compared to federalism reform processes adopted in other countries, serious questions arise about the Australian White Paper process. These include whether the time horizon was adequate, whether the process was genuinely collaborative, whether Australian governments would be able to overcome barriers to reform caused by oppositional politics, and whether principle or pragmatic self-interest would, ultimately, determine the outcome. The failure of the White Paper process offers an opportunity to ask whether Australian federalism can ever be reformed, and what would need to happen for this to occur.
Keywords: executive federalism, constitutional reform, federalism reform, comparative federalism, deliberation
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