The future of state governments?

In a speech 3 days ago, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke recommended that Australia should abolish its state governments.The speech was widely reported – see, for example, The Australian’s coverage here.

Hawke argued that state borders were “bloody absurd” and that Australia would be governed more effectively with only two levels of government (federal and local).

The case for abolition of states has been made many times before, including by Hawke 36 years ago. In a column in The Australian in 2007 (available  here), I pointed out that Australia has more politicians per voter than almost any other nation on earth and argued that the abolition of state governments would save taxpayers $30 billion per annum and slash red tape. Of course, such a reform would need to be implemented carefully. It wouldn’t necessarily mean more centralisation at the federal level. Services are best delivered locally where possible; combing existing councils into larger regional councils would enable them to take over various state government functions cost-effectively. Given the potential gains, Hawke’s proposal is worthy of serious consideration.


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