Over on ABC’s The Drum, Chris Uhlmann again opines that doing away with the States would somehow be a bad thing.
It would be impossible to do justice to his argument, which essentially boils down to this:
But the reason everyone notices state incompetence is because it’s the level of government that rubs against our lives. It’s a fair bet that when the Commonwealth gets more enmeshed in health it will get more of the blame for the things that go wrong, even if it doesn’t have a direct role in running the system. — Chris Uhlmann
It’s a remarkably weird argument. There is a university near my home in regional Victoria. In comparison to universities such as Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Sydney, &c., it’s clear that the regional university really isn’t up to the same academic standard. It would be more than a bit strange for somebody to tell me with a straight face that I only held this belief because the local university was closer to me than the other, better resourced universities.
When the Commonwealth was founded, there was no recognition of each other as being Australian. Even until comparatively recently, Australians have considered themselves Britons. Since the 1970s, there has been an increased focus on national identity which has reduced the emphasis on state versus state relationships. Not surprisingly, we only really hear about State relationships going sour when there are limited resources involved (water being the prime example).
In the U.S., coming from this or that state is culturally important to the individual. U.S. state politics is interesting and complex. In Victoria, it’s an accident caused by the march of history.
The Senate is noted as being the States’ House, and yet the parties represented there rarely reflect the common views of Australians (I had a post a few months back showing how few votes you’d need in order to get a seat in the Senate. Keating was correct when he called it unrepresentative swill).
What role, then, do the States have in governing a united group of people? While Uhlmann is correct that there will be problems with centralised government, it’s an irrelevant objection. Is the Commonwealth better resourced to take care of the health system? Yes? Then it should. Is there any legitimacy to the continued existence of the States? No? Then they should be abolished.