By Angela Catterns

Given the general feeling across the electorate that politicians are pretty much on the nose, it’s surprising we allow ourselves to be governed by so many of them.

The Prime Minister’s bolt from the blue last week about allowing the states to levy their own income tax, has let loose the dogs of state abolition. Let’s get rid of the states altogether, goes the refrain. It’s one tier of government too many. 

The state premiers at COAG roundly rejected his plan, even though the PM says his reform was about giving states and territories more autonomy. 

Soon after Mr.Turnbull’s short-lived thought bubble, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk green lighted Carmichael, Australia’s biggest coalmine, in the Galilee Basin. 

She gave the big tick to Indian mining giant Adani to carve out 9 coalmines and build railways to serve them in the Galilee Basin. They’ll expand their port at Abbot Point and transport massive loads of coal - enough to produce 700 million tonnes of CO2 every year - smack bang through the middle of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Does anyone else see a problem here?

Despite her lame economic argument, the Premier has made an irresponsible decision. It’s the 21st century, we’ve just lived through the hottest year on record and the world is committed to reducing carbon emissions. The Reef is part of our common wealth – and so, for that matter, is the coal. Hers is a decision that affects all Australians, not just Queenslanders. More autonomy for that state is not a good thing.

Interestingly, the Adani Group has also confirmed it’s exploring the possibility of developing a major solar plant in the heart of another Queensland coal region, the Bowen Basin. The company has said it’s looking at investment opportunities in Australia’s solar generation sector, with a focus on Queensland. 

Solar power generation is a no-brainer for Queensland. It is, as you know, the Sunshine State. The Premier should realise that way, the future lies. 

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke always believed in abolition of the states. He still thinks it’s the right thing for Australia. As he says, we have a set of governments that represent the meanderings of the British explorers over the face of the continent 200 years ago. 

"They drew lines on a map and then said that is how Australia is going to be governed. If you were drawing up a system of government today, in ideal terms, what we have got now is the last thing you would have."

Former Queensland leader Peter Beattie is on the same page and reckons there’s an urgent need for real federation reform. He believes duplication between state and federal governments is wasting billions of dollars.  But other former premiers including John Brumby from Victoria, Bob Carr from NSW and Geoff Gallop from Western Australia argue that Australia's federal system is more cost-effective than a unitary system would be, that rivalry between the states fosters competition, political diversity and innovation. Besides, people are attached to their states. 

And what would become of the State of Origin?

Still it’s an attractive proposition; let’s end the doubling up of bureaucracies, the wasteful competition between the sates. 

Let’s have one system of education, one health and hospital system, one rail gauge, uniform laws across the country, fewer pollies on perks and lifetime pensions. 

Of course, some people argue that if you’re going to ditch a tier of government, let’s get rid of those on the bottom rung, the local councils. But the role they play addressing local needs is vital to the suburbs and communities in which we live. 

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves which of our politicians are giving us value for money? Which ones do we actually need? 

The answer could be to ditch state governments and replace them with large, regional councils.  

 

But the reality is - like changing the flag or becoming a republic - it’s never going to happen in our lifetime.