Thursday, July 30, 2009


I haven't read all of Tony Abbott's book yet. I've been looking forward to it as I knew he was going to discuss the future of the Federation - and I'm not disappointed.

But it was mighty strange that the book was launched in the same week as the National Health Reform Commission reported. This is the report about which the Prime Minister has had to dissemble on his rash promise to have worked with the States to fix the health system or to take it over.

His problem is of course that there is no rational way to take it over.

Here is where Abbott has his bright idea - which is to propose a new section 51A to the constitution that allows the Commonwealth to increase its own powers by the expediency of passing the relevant bill twice eparated by six months.

It is an excellent suggestion. It solves the vexed problem of the fact that no one wants the States but no one can be prepared to suggest that they be abolished - plus the legislation to abolish them needs to come from a State Parliament.

Tony correctly identifies that this is a conservative stance - the men who gathered to draft the constitution did not write a Federal constitution because of a passionate desire to protect the States but as a matter of expedience.

In the 7:30 report interview that touched on the change and Rudd's dilemma. Paul Kelly in the Oz touched on the issue a bit more but seemed to dismiss the chance of the constitutional change getting up out of hand.

Peter van Onselen also in the Oz is equally dismissive of the constitutional change. Greg Craven of ACU is quoted as suggesting that the failure of the republic referendum is a pointer to the success of Abbott's "Change 51" (As I will now call it). This is complete bunk - the people know that the republic issue was all gloss and no substance, "Change 51" has the power to significantly impact on the quality of our Government and hence on our services.

The question - how do we build the "Change 51" movement.

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