Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Howard's Federalism Legal

"I am concerned at moves to increase the powers of the Federal Government, at the expense of the States." I wrote that in July 2006, when I established this blog. It still sits under the heading "About Me", at left.

On 14-Nov-2006, the Australian High Court dismissed an application by the States, Unions and other various parties, to have the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation deemed unconstitutional, because it infringed upon State rights and responsibilities under Australia's Constitution. The legislation is seen as divisive, favouring employers and designed to drive wages down.

Justices Kirby and Callinan dissented. Justice Kirby said that the decision could allow the Federal Government to control any "corporatised body". The Sydney Morning Herald ( stated that this could include schools (esp Private Schools), hospitals, Aged Care, higher education (eg TAFE and universities). All of these are the responsibilities of the States.

Prime Minister John Howard reacted by saying that "It's not the intention of the Government to interpret this decision as some kind of carte blanche for some massive expansion of Commonwealth power."

But it is. Look at John Howard's record on some matters:
  • we now have the GST Mr Howard said we would "never, ever" have
  • we have Mr Howard exerting undue influence in school education. For example, he has threatened to withhold money unless States include A - F grades on all school reports; he and his ministers have tried to influence the history that is taught in schools; he has withheld money from TAFE and universities unless they implemented, or at least offered, AWA's (ie forcing his Workchoices legislation onto bodies that did not come under direct control of the legislation)
  • Workchoices brought wage fixing under the direct wing of the Ministry of Employment and Workplace Relations. ie it removed it from the independent judiciary to a government department, subject to Ministerial influence and control. The government now makes the law, and enforces it!
  • He is currently increasing the Federal Government's role and influence in water, another State responsibility.
  • Some of his ministers have expressed a desire to have more control over hospitals and State health budgets; and indigineous affairs, another State responsibility under the Constitution.

Ths is not to say that some areas would be better if properly managed by a Federal Government. But to have the power to simply enact legislation and remove State rights and responsibilities should concern every single Australian.

Governments and Prime Ministers will come and go, but that power will remain until protected by Constitutional reform.

Mr Howard is developing a track record of misleading, or at least not telling the voters, his intentions. We voters hould be very cautious about his statements.

The Analyst