Some of our regular visitors raised the question as to why the need for both Federal and State Governments, or for that matter, why have states? Why not have just one central government? Unknowing to these visitors was the unpublicised fact that this just happens to be one of my areas of expertise.
“Impart this knowledge onto us” they pleaded.
That’s all I needed; an invitation to ramble on. And ramble on I do, for a fair amount of preamble is required before I get to the nitty-gritty. I’ll need to start the talk with a few words about federalism. You may feel the need to grab a drink and a table. This is a long post, and I apologise for that, but I hope I’ve made it interesting.
Here we go.
Federalism is a descriptive word for a typology of government rule. Australia, as is some other western countries, is governed under a federal system which has its own distinct characteristics, being: the agreement to federate is recorded in our Constitution; the power distribution between the Commonwealth and state governments; and the equal representation of the states.
A number of western countries are governed under a federal system, yet each system contains its own distinctiveness. Canada, the USA, and Australia for example, have federal systems that have recognisable differences. What though, is federalism? Federalism is but one form of decentralised government that differs only in degree, but not in kind, from other regionalised governments.
Isolating this description into the Australian model, we have a Commonwealth Government (as the central government) and the states and territories (the regionalised governments).
However, Australian federalism – as indicated – has its own characteristics that distinguish it from other federal systems. Three major characteristics are identified:
1. The original agreement to federate is recorded in our Constitution.
2. Power is distributed between the central government and the regional governments.
3. The regions must be equally represented (which is mainly done in the Senate).