Page: 1 Transcript Station: RADIO NATIONAL Date: 22/04/2008 Program: BREAKFAST Time: 07:47 AM Compere: STEVE CANNANE Summary ID: C00030411244 Item: DISCUSSION ON PROPOSED STRUCTURAL REFORM OF FEDERAL-STATE RELATIONS, AS DEBATED AT THE 2020 SUMMIT. INTERVIEWEES: DR AJ BROWN, DIRECTOR, FEDERALISM PROJECT, GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY Demographics: Male 16+ N/A STEVE CANNANE: Female 16+ N/A All people N/A ABs N/A GBs N/A One of the themes out of the 2020 Summit was the need for an overhaul of federal-state regulations. And according to our next guest, this call to arms has helped deliver a big victory for structural reform of federal, state and local government relations. Dr AJ Brown is the director of the Federalism Project at Griffith University, and he says the proposed Federation Commission could finally deliver Australia with a workable new federalism. AJ Brown joins us from our Canberra studio this morning. AJ, thanks for talking to us. DR AJ BROWN: Morning, Steve. Page: 2 STEVE CANNANE: The call for a Federation Commission came from the 2020 Summit over the weekend, particularly from the economics working group. What's your understanding of what it would do? DR AJ BROWN: Well, it'd be a really important part of a process, which really could make a huge difference in Australian history to fixing, not just in a small way but in a large way, the real problems that do run and have run for a long time with our federal system. And if you - it's a very complex process. It's like a lot of these big ideas; they are not necessarily brand new, but the reason why they haven't been tackled is because they are complex and they require really hard work and it requires both a process, but it also requires machinery. And the Federation Commission would be a key part, if not the key part, of that machinery. STEVE CANNANE: Now, talk about a new federalism is nothing new, but what will make it different this time round? Will it be the stridency of business and the economic agenda for seamless national market and regulation? DR AJ BROWN: Well, I think one of the successes of the summit was that the message came through in different ways on the same issue from so many different streams - from health, from rural, from economy. And what our job was in the governance stream was Page: 3 to deliver a process that would actually work, that wouldn't just be a process for business and economists, but be a process for the whole community tying that all together. So it is a factor of there being that level of support and the fact that so many ordinary people, if you like, who were part of the summit, who were thinking outside the box, were so clear on that call. So it really is a pretty unique opportunity, and one of the crucial things that hasn't happened before is that it's not just about federal-state relations, it's not just about sort of tinkering with the way in which those governments do business behind closed doors, it's about all levels of governance being part of this overhaul. And it's about - it's the fact that's it's about finances and structures and institutions and not just about, you know, whether federal governments are doing this or state governments are doing that, it's a much more comprehensive approach. STEVE CANNANE: Now, AJ, I understand while the governance stream, which you were a part of at the 2020 Summit, was struggling with this issue of a mechanism to kind of enforce this new federalism, the hard heads in the business group had come up with a model. Page: 4 Tell us about the cross-fertilisation that was going on behind the scenes between those two groups. DR AJ BROWN: Well, there was a lot of cross-fertilisation between a number of groups. We in the governance group knew that the rural group were basically saying, let's abolish the states. In the governance group, we knew that the economy group was proceeding with the Federation Council idea, which the Business Council of Australia had previously already articulated. So that's a case of an important idea getting really good support from a much broader forum. But we always knew that there's no - there was no ability to design in two days the system that we will have in 2020. We may know that it needs to be structurally different and to work in a whole lot of different ways and to deal with a whole lot of different issues and be, as Geoff Gallop, the former WA Premier, said, a much more agile system of government. But we knew that what was more important than trying to dream up what the system would look like was a process that will just get us the best system. And there are a range of institutions that have been suggested for that, and it will actually require a mix of all of those - out of our stream, out of the economy stream - putting together the best of those things which are quite compatible. Page: 5 And I think the Government and the nation - more importantly the nation - will actually have a very workable reform process. STEVE CANNANE: It seems really interesting to me, though, that the hard heads of the business section seem to be able to nut this thing out, and perhaps all the constitutional lawyers and the like and people who want change to the way we're governed can ride in on the slipstream of the back of the business reforms here. DR AJ BROWN: Well, that's one way of putting it. But I admit I think it's true that the people in the economy stream could be very hard headed and I think that was extremely useful. But at the end of the day, there was - the most important thing about this is that there was no conflict between the ideas; there's enormous complementarity between the ideas. Lawyers and political scientists and people with experience in government and community deliberation and deliberative democracy and participative governance, which were all the people in the governance stream, were more focused on what are the process - what are the principles and what are the processes that the community can engage in, all sectors of the community can engage in to get the right result. But it needs to have momentum and it needs to have serious resources. And I think that's where, Page: 6 amongst the architecture that was suggested, I think the Federation Commission is a fundamental breakthrough if it's established well. STEVE CANNANE: We're talking to Dr AJ Brown, the director of the Federalism Project at Griffith University, and it's seven minutes to eight o'clock. AJ, do we have any idea how this Federation Commission will be constituted? What's its brief, what will be its brief if it does come in? DR AJ BROWN: Well, those are very crucial questions, and it's now time for a lot of stakeholders, not just government, but a lot of stakeholders to continue to put the meat on the bones. It's very important that, as the Business Council has proposed, it's not a body of just government people talking to one another. It needs to be broadly based; it needs to involve people from business and the community; it needs to be based on expertise and the best possible people who understand government and know how it works but can also stand outside government; and it needs some serious research capacity, policy capacity and capacity to engage in the community, with the community in the design process; and it also needs to be owned by all existing levels of government who face, do face change and reform through the process. So it is a very significant design question how to set up a body that will be able to achieve all those Page: 7 things and also stay the distance politically. This body will have to be composed in a way - I mean, people will come and go from it, but it needs to be composed in a way which survives state governments changing from Labor back to Liberal or Coalition; it needs to be able to survive changes of government at the federal level. There's going to be a lot of things that happen before the design process is complete. STEVE CANNANE: And just briefly, AJ, the future of the states. In 10 years' time, will they simply wither away? DR AJ BROWN: Well, I don't think it's safe to assume that or say that or even assume that that's necessarily desirable. It's a bit like, you know, every major city and town in this country pretty much is built on a river or a harbour, and it's got numerous bridges over it, and we depend on, currently depend on all of those bridges. And the same is true with all our current levels of government. We may decide that we want to redesign the system, but we can't just start shutting down one bridge or another bridge without dealing with the fact that we haven't actually redesigned the infrastructure and got the new infrastructure ready to roll yet. So it's not as simple as simply saying we can get rid of a level of government. But certainly the Page: 8 objectives that people have when they say we've got too much government, we need to get rid of a level, we've got to simplify it, we've got to make local and regional governance more stronger and more democratic as part of this process as well as the national reforms, all those objectives are the objectives which have to drive this process. STEVE CANNANE: AJ, thanks a lot for talking to us this morning. DR AJ BROWN: Thanks, Steve. STEVE CANNANE: AJ Brown, director of the Federalism Project at Griffith University. * * END * * TRANSCRIPT PRODUCED BY MEDIA MONITORS target-monitor-analyse ADELAIDE BRISBANE CANBERRA MELBOURNE PERTH SYDNEY 08 8132 4800 07 3259 2100 02 6124 5200 03 8327 6400 08 9228 5800 02 9318 4000 AGENCY REPORT For private research and not to be disseminated. Every effort made to ensure accuracy for the benefit of our clients but no legal responsibility is taken for errors or omissions. (*) - Indicates unknown spelling or phonetic spelling. Metro TV demographics are supplied by OzTAM, Radio and Non-Metro TV demographics are supplied by Nielsen Media Research. ABs = Managers, administrators, professions. GBs = Grocery buyers.