Sovereignty, Blame Games, and Tony Abbott's New Federalism


The federation is broken and needs to be fixed. That’s Tony Abbott’s view, and many would agree with him.

A call for the federal system to be reviewed was part of the coalition’s 2013 election platform, but it received little attention at the time. Subsequent events have given the review greater prominence and served to emphasise the significance of possible reforms in this area.

The government’s Commission of Audit made far-reaching recommendations that would see the states once again empowered to impose income tax and the Commonwealth withdraw from funding some state functions. The 2014-15 budget foreshadowed a lower growth path for Commonwealth grants to the states for health and education after 2017, leading to complaints from state premiers that the Commonwealth is depriving them of $80 billion. Meanwhile, some are promoting an increase in the GST as part of the solution.

Should the division of roles and responsibilities between the Commonwealth and states be redrawn? What is the legitimate role of the Commonwealth in relation to state functions? How should the states be funded?

These and related issues will be discussed by Nick Greiner, Anne Twomey, Robert Carling and Jeremy Sammut.

The Hon Nick Greiner AC is the formerPremier and Treasurer of New South Wales. Since his retirement from politics he has enjoyed a highly successful career in the corporate world. Amongst other activities, heis currently Chairman of Bradken, The Nuance Group, Accolade Wines and Playup as well as Deputy Chairman of CHAMP Private Equity.

Robert Carling is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. Prior to joining the CIS, Robert was Executive Director, Economic and Fiscal at the New South Wales Treasury from 1998 to 2006. Previous position have been with Commonwealth Treasury, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

 Anne Twomey is currently Professor of Constitutional Law and Director, Constitutional Reform Unit at the University of Sydney. She has practised as a solicitor and has worked for the High Court of Australia as a Senior Research Officer, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Research Service as a researcher in the Law and Government Group, the Commonwealth Senate as Secretary to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee, and The Cabinet Office of NSW as Policy Manager of the Legal Branch.

Dr Jeremy Sammut (PhD) is a Research Fellow at the CIS. He is the author of numerous research reports on Australian health policy including The False Promise of GP Super Clinics (2008), Why Public Hospitals are Overcrowded (2009), and How! Not How Much: Medicare Spending and Health Resource Allocation in Australia (2011). Jeremy regularly comments on health issues in the Australian media.

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