Our Chaotic Federation
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As our national pandemic response proved, and the subsequent conduct of the federal election confirmed, our federation is in irreparable crisis.
Our national unity was tested daily by hours of confused media conferences where the gormless politicking of many state leaders was on full display seeking to destroy any semblance of national unity at a time of genuine crisis. They were shamelessly egged on by the alternative government who slipped into early election mode advocating for more debt and promising the world. We are now in a debt trap of our making. The lockdowns in Victoria, the lockout out of WA from the Federation, the infamous statement from the Queensland Premier that Queensland hospitals “are for Queensland people” and the shuttering of Australia to folks wanting to “come home” has been proven to be spectacular overreach. Beaches closed, parks closed, schools closed and thousands of elderly dying alone. Those responsible for this calamity no doubt will escape sanction whilst the true scope of their culpable behaviour will play out over decades.
Fast forward to six months into a new political regime change where the first order of business for this country is a Voice to Parliament for our first nations folk. Now the management of indigenous affairs across the country is vested with State and Territory Governments. Each has a responsible minister, each has a ministerial advisory group of some sort and oodles of other experts on hand. Commonwealth powers here are an illusion despite the fact that there is a Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister who is quick to point the finger of blame at states and territories for the appalling incarceration rates and domestic violence and homicide rates 10 times above the rate of the rest of the community. We have precisely nine ministerial equivalents across all parliaments and scores of advisory bodies focused on indigenous issues. No other group in this country, representing 3.2 percent of our population, enjoys such attention. Yet despite this and the enormous amounts of money spent on closing the gap and propping up dysfunctional communities, problems continue to exacerbate.
Similarly each government jurisdiction treats their responsibilities to our environment the same way. Despite some brief national consensus in 2021 around an emissions reduction target of zero by 2050, all government jurisdictions have gone rogue imposing their own legislative limits at the expense of an ordered agreed path to an acceptable transition. The demonisation of traditional fossil fuels and the rejection of gas as a transition power source will cost Australia dearly as we saddle the next generation with the bills. The promised relief of surging power prices has disappeared without trace and so too will jobs in our manufacturing, mining, agriculture and resources sector in the years ahead as we join a growing queue pleading with China to sell us more solar panels and windmills and we dig up more and more lithium to create a battery powered economy. The slack will not be picked up in the rewiring the nation folly being touted by the voodoo practitioners any time soon as some states hurtle towards their targets by 2035. Have we lost all reason in difficult debates as to our future? It does not need to be all about politics.
The regional and urban divide will only exacerbate our sense of frustration around a functioning Federation in the years ahead. Political power is exercised by satisfying the dull and hungry. Witness the rise of the Teals. Governments continue to over promise and deliver little to our regions. We are last in the meal queue.