Saturday, August 04, 2007

The new federalism?

In a masterpiece of marketing the Howard government have labelled their centralist push ‘the new federalism’. Relabelling is probably something dreamed up by our own ‘Rove’ – Mark Textor, pollster and strategist to Howard’s mob.

The approach is also fascinating; with the “Federal Government is just shopping around Australia, trawling through marginal seats…” seeking out targeted, vote catching, intervention in areas of state responsibility.

The latest is the Federal purchase of a Tasmanian regional hospital. The hospital had been phased out when a larger facility was established in a nearby town. The move was well in line with economic rationalism, but also handy in this marginal seat the government are trying to hold on to.

New Victorian premier, John Brumby, is ready to take the fight up to the Feds. The first will no doubt be against the Feds takeover of the country’s inland river systems. But on hospitals Brumby says:

"In recent years we've been cheated and robbed in relation to (Commonwealth) funding," he said. "For example, we're only getting 41 per cent of our hospital funding under the Medicare agreement. We're meant to be getting 50 per cent.”

He adds “…we need a better framework for federalism, in which to produce the best for the citizens of Victoria and Australia. But you can't do that if the Federal Government just bails out a hospital which is not viable."

I expect we will have a few high court battles on the federal intrusions, at least from Victoria and Queensland. Senior doctors at Tasmania's North West Regional Hospital have threatened to quit over the federal intervention in their region. That might get the smallest state mobilised as well.

My fear it that the centralist threat is only a real issue to the smaller (population) states; and Victoria which has a traditional rivalry with NSW. Western Australia is basking in a resources boom at the moment and really see themselves as separate and the NSW voters are far too self focussed to concern themselves with political infighting.

That the assault on our country’s structure will help the embattled Howard government is doubtful. But in the process, political motivation will drive the country further off course, further along the road to an American style ‘democracy’.


reality-based educator said...

You guys have a Rove too - huh. Just like syphillus, you can't stop the spread of this stuff.

Cartledge said...

Indeed! Sadly the infection was actually introduced from Washington DC where Textor spent some time.

reality-based educator said...

I'm not surprised that's where the infection was first introduced!!!