Former premier calls for cuts to state governments
Former NSW premier Bob Carr has called for a drastic reduction in the size of state governments. Mr Carr said governments at state level should have no more than five ministers, while MPs should work part-time.
Speaking on the ABC’s “Q&A” program, Mr Carr said states had “lost an awful lot of power in the last 20 years”, with the result that “within 10 to 15 years the states are going to have markedly little to do”.
“I would suggest that the next COAG [Council of Australian Governments] task would be to plan for the day when state governments comprise five ministers — no more than five ministers — when state parliamentarians meet on a part-time basis, they’re paid as part-time MPs as in Texas or Alabama and we expect little more of them,” Mr Carr said.
“At the present time you’ve got a New South Wales Minister for Veterans Affairs, you’ve got a Victorian Minister for Respect. It’s not long before the Tasmanians have a Minister for Colonisation of Outer Space, we’re so desperate to find work.”
Mr Carr said states had lost the power to gain revenue by taxing petrol, alcohol and tobacco, while former prime minister John Howard had asserted the right to fund flagpoles in state schools.
“There’s been a significant drift of even a national curriculum. I mean, it used to be considered that the states would run the curriculum if they ran nothing else.”
Mr Carr said with the current rate of diminution of state power, state governments would have little to do.
“They’re going to be shells,” he said.
“Every year they lose a new power. I just think it’s inevitable, you’re looking at part-time MPs and a smaller state cabinet. It is now indefensible that the states have got 15 to 20 ministers in each of their cabinets.”
The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, said there were major problems for industry in dealing with multiple levels of regulation: “having to deal with these issues on a daily basis — seven regulators across everything, eight pieces of regulation on occupational health and safety, which we’re now trying to fix and we’re making progress on that,” she said.
However Ms Ridout said there were advantages in states competing with one another.
“From an industry point of view, competition between the states can actually be a really good thing too,” she said.
“Payroll taxes are different in some states. In others, workers’ compensation schemes work in better states than others.”
Ms Ridout said one of the better reforms of the Carr Labor government in NSW was workers compensation legislation.
“Competitive federalism can yield really good results,” she said.
“You give up the federation, you give up some of those possibilities.”