Nov 122008

Let this be a lesson to anyone who thinks that a conservative brand of Federalism is good for democracy.

Tony Abbott, in his ever predictable, hard right-wing way, has warned all believers in the necessity for checks and balances on the probability of an all-powerful federal government, against the election of any brand of conservatism containing him, or anyone who desires to resurrect the Howardian legacy we’ve thankfully shed.
His argument, if indeed there is one, makes no sense when considered against the background of just why we have a Federal system of State and Commonwealth governments, with separated powers and responsibilities. Abbott claims the current system exists as a hangover from 19th century compromises in order to achieve a unified Federation called Australia. Such is not the case, as anyone who takes the time to read and understand the intent of the Australian Constitution, at least insofar as Section 51 is concerned, will attest. The Constitution may not be a perfect construct, just as Abbott’s version of all-encompassing Commonwealth-empowered brand of Federalism would not be. We’ve already had a taste of that brand of Federalism through the Howardian exercising of the subsection 20 of Section 51, the Corporations Power.
Inconsistencies exist, to be sure, and in a democracy, those inconsistencies can be challenged. This is why Australia has a forum for adjudication known as the High Court. That place is where the Constitution is to be held to account. Not in the op-ed pages of a known ideologically driven media outlet and not by a self-declared proponent for abolition of State responsibilities and associated checks & balances on Commonwealth power.