Is Constitutional Change Possible?
Forget constitutional recognition of local government, the current favorite for a tweaking of our basic law. A state government, in my view, needs the discipline over councils that they now have but would lose, over time, if councils had a call on the High Court evey time a planning minister threatened to intervene. I remember taking on north coast councils when I was Planning Minister (1984 – 1988) when they threatened to bulldoze wetlands or do other environmental damage.
A republic? I want one, with the minimalist concept of the Governor General as head of state. But it will only happen when the leader of the coalition says to the leader of the ALP they will support it. You need both sides, maybe the Green Party as well, to get a majority in a majority of states to vote for a republic at a referendum. The republic is on hold until that day.
I spoke about the depletion of state power but the indestructibility of the states. Hence the logic of reviving federalism – of letting the states run more of the nation’s policies on health and education and the rest. And what’s wrong with states being able to compete on policy? With one state being able, for example, to decide to run a medically-supervised injecting room to save lives or to keep teaching history in schools when the others do things differently, to say nothing of bigger policy competition.
I said there was nothing inherently progressive about centralism or conservative about federalism.
Recognising rights in the constitution came up and I presented arguments against it as I have on many occasions. I was impressed, talking to students, how support for the notion seemed to be ebbing. And if support for a charter is ebbing in university law schools….