Are We There Yet?

Bob Carr has resigned today, and will doubtless attract well-deserved plaudits for his longevity and electoral skills. And there are a few policy successes too – it’s unlikely the week-long drugs summit in May 1999 would have happened under the Liberals. But aside from drugs, the failure to rock the boats on industrial reform, and some worthy rhetoric on the environment and literature, it’s difficult to think that NSW would be a very different place if leaping John Fahey had stayed Premier for another decade.

Some of this must surely be attributable to the fact that it’s hard to do much of anything in state government. Yet on education policy, probably the state policy issue I know most about, it was disappointing to see how little real reform took place. Here’s hoping that Carr’s successor will be a little more energetic about putting in place some substantial social democratic changes.

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2 Responses to Are We There Yet?

  1. Dale Bailey says:

    I have been thinking more lately about the value of our States. I work in the public health system in NSW and we seem to inevitably get caught in arguments about who should fund what – the Commonwealth or the States. At present, in my area (diagnostic imaging) other states are pushing ahead with state initiatives to improve aspects of health care, but in NSW little is happening. In NSW we have a ministerial initiative to harmonise and standardise services within the state – other states to my knowledge don’t have a similar body directly communicating from the ‘front line’ to the minister – and it works well. Meanwhile, we are told that our state doesn’t get the carve-up it deserves from the GST windfall, and we therefore do not have the same investment in health infrastructure as other states. I have some sympathy for Tony Abbott’s view that health should be run by the Commonwealth. Why not education too? Does it make sense not to have national harmony on education?

    Recently it was reported (SMH, date forgotten) that Peter Beattie had made a flying visit to Sydney in an attempt to ‘steal’ business investment away from Sydney to Brisbane. Wouldn’t it have been better if he had of swooped on Singapore, or Hong Kong, or similar? Perhaps he does do that as well.

    State-of-Origin contests are fine for footy but seem counter-productive to me economically and politically.

    Are there any compelling arguments, which benefit the citizens, for retaining the states given the enormous, sparsely populated country we live in?

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Greg Craven’s “Conversations with the Constitution” makes the best arguments. From my view, they are that some stuff is better determined at a more local level, states allow policy experiments, and decentralisation allows for different policy priorities and Tiebout sorting.

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