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Submission to the Select Committee on the reform of the Australian Federation

Zimmermann, A. and Finlay, L. (2010) Submission to the Select Committee on the reform of the Australian Federation. Submission to the Senate Selection Committee .

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In drafting the Australian Constitution, the framers sought to maintain a federal balance in the distribution of powers between the Commonwealth and the states. They designed the Australian Constitution to be an instrument of government intended to distribute and limit governmental powers. Such distribution and limitation upon governmental powers was deliberately chosen by them because of the well substantiated understanding that concentration of power is often inimical to the achievement of human freedom and happiness.

This paper will be divided into two parts with the first part summarising the main characteristics of a federal system as a system of government worthy of protecting: it controls power, safeguards democracy and promotes liberty. And yet, the approach to constitutional interpretation preferred by the High Court since the 1920’s has dramatically expanded Commonwealth power to the point where many of the advantages of federalism have now been lost.

Centralisation indeed has been an on-going pursuit by the Commonwealth, aided by the High Court. The dramatic expansion of the powers of the Commonwealth has completely transformed the federal system in Australia, in a way that was not intended by the drafters of the Australian Constitution. This so being, the second part of our paper will consider the great need for reforming our ‘dysfunctional’ federal system, thus offering the potential agenda for a comprehensive reform of the Australian Federation.

Item Type: Others
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Publisher: Australian Government
Copyright: The Authors
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