SPECIAL ISSUE
CONTENTS
  • Section A) The theory and practise of the federal states and multi-level systems of government
  • Section B) Global governance and international organizations
  • Section C) Regional integration processes
  • Section D) Federalism as a political idea
  • Galligan Brian
    Processes for Reforming Australian Federalism
    in University of New South Wales Law Journal (The) , Volume 31, Issue 2 ,  2008 ,  617-642
    In this paper, I argue a number of propositions concerning the process of federal reform which are developed from an examination of the institutional parameters and logic of Australian federalism, references to historical examples and institutional processes for reform. Such an exercise is potentially very large, so my coverage is inevitably selective, and it is also skewed towards the political aspects of the reform process. Primarily, this is because I hope to demonstrate that the most promising avenues for reforming Australian federalism are political rather than constitutional. In this respect, my views are probably at odds with those of constitutional lawyers and others who, when they perceive a problem with Australian federalism, tend to reach for the Constitution and set about devising legal remedies. While this keeps constitutional discourse alive in a political culture that takes its constitutional heritage for granted (and is hence a noble enterprise) it is largely a waste of time. This is for two reasons that will be developed further in this article: first, constitutional change has proven an unlikely vehicle for federal change; and second, most reforms can be undertaken via sub-constitutional politics. I agree with Anne Twomey that '[t]he time is ripe for review of our federal system' and that there is a need for 'thorough consideration of constitutional reform'.5 I argue, however, that thorough consideration of the shortcomings of constitutional and judicial reform shows us that we should look mainly to politics and sub-constitutional institutional reform as the most promising avenues for reforming Australian federalism. The thrust of the article can be summarised in a series of arguments or propositions. The first is that there are multiple processes for reforming Australian federalism and that these processes are more varied and complex than is often assumed in essentialist notions of reform discourse that tend to view federalism as a static institutional or conceptual construct. The second is that the interactivity of these processes is significant in achieving, or indeed frustrating, reforms. The third is that reform processes are more developmental and incremental, rather than programmatic and discrete. The fourth is that federal reform processes - mainly political, though involving competitive and cooperative aspects - are already in place and working tolerably well. The fifth is that negative prognostications often draw upon unexamined assumptions and models of federalism that generate problems more imagined than real.
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