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The Weekly Advertiser

EDITORIAL | Too many chiefs

Dean Lawson editorial 2 2017
Anyone who casually follows the day-to-day cut and thrust of Australian politics can be forgiven for periods of confusion about how our process of governance works.
While coming to grips with the different personalities that constantly front the media is often challenging enough, we then have to try to wade through all the other vagaries and processes involved in running a country, states and territories.
What continues to dribble through the maelstrom of governance like a bad leak in an over-stressed pipe is the often-awkward relationship between state and federal governments.
Verbal jousting between state and federal leaders, especially if they are from opposite sides of the political spectrum, has some of us occasionally asking – who is in charge?
The anxiety between tiers of government is always about levels of responsibility, money and the best and most appropriate ways of sharing the national purse.
Everywhere we look there are deals and arrangements between the states and the Commonwealth, some of them dating back to Federation, some under review, some in their infancy.
For example, in the build-up to the Federal Budget, we were reminded that it’s the states that are primarily responsible for financing government schools.
But we were also informed in no uncertain manner that the Commonwealth lends the major hand when it comes to private school education and that it is ready to make sweeping changes.
During the Victorian Budget we heard the State Government declare a financial windfall for regional rail services – only to be then informed that as part of a public-asset sale deal, the money was only forthcoming with a Federal Government tick of approval.
You can’t promise anything you don’t have, although you can try.
This often-philosophical confusion between governance responsibilities between the tiers of government is far from new.
We only have to consider colourful moments in Australian political history for examples.
One of the best comes from 1917 when then Prime Minister Billy Hughes, after having his hat knocked from his head by an egg thrown by a protester during a pro-conscription speech, demanded a Queensland police officer arrest the offender.
The officer’s reply of ‘you have no jurisdiction’ is the stuff of legend and considered the catalyst for the formation of the Commonwealth Police Force.
Then there is the poor cousin – local government – that can’t afford top-level political wheeling and dealing because it is at the community coalface where there is no hiding from the people.
When it comes to cost shifting between government tiers, local government is always the hardest hit.
This is where everyday people, such as is the case in Ararat’s rating differential storm, find themselves burdened with far-reaching financial decisions to simply make municipal ends meet – many decisions that should be coming from Spring Street or Canberra.

The entire May 10, 2017 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on May 10 2017

Posted by on May 10 2017. Filed under News, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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