Professor Aroney compared the White Paper process to similar attempts to reform the federal system that have recently occurred in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. He argued that efforts to reform Australian federalism consistently fail due to an oppositional political environment in which successive governments are unwilling to build constructively upon the efforts of their predecessors. Each new Prime Minister promises to ‘fix the federation’, making this a point of difference with his or her predecessor, thereby undermining the reform process viewed from a long-term perspective. Professor Aroney pointed out that there is fundamental disagreement in Australia concerning the direction that federal reform should take. The Swiss experience, he argued, suggests the best way to reform a federation is to build upon broad-based consensus about the principles that should guide the reform process. Too often Australian pragmatism has turned debate about our federal system into a political football.
Professor Aroney’s talk was delivered at a conference organised by the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University.
Copies of his two papers on the topic can be accessed here and here.