COVID-19 and Australian Federalism: The first year of our grand experiment with 21st Century governance – Brendan Markey-Towler

Australia was designed as a federation but has been walking that back almost ever since, centralising many functions.

Then came COVID-19 and suddenly it was every state premier for themself. All states closed their borders, and all locked down to some extent. But the variations between them were huge.

This presented a natural experiment to explore the benefits of a federal, rather than a unitary, system.

In this monograph author Brendan Markey-Towler examines the performance of the states, and contrasts it with history, particularly the Premiers’ Plan of the Great Depression, and actual outcomes.

As an institute we are committed to reviving Australian federalism. Federations outperform the competition for a number of reasons. They allow for experimentation. Decisions are taken closer to the people affected (particularly in a large country like Australia). They marry up the responsibility of raising funds with the task of spending them.

And they provide redundancies which unitary systems don’t – when one part of the federation fails, the others can still keep operating. Proponents of unitary systems cite efficiency, but how efficient would Australia have been if Daniel Andrews was running the whole of Australia, rather than just Victoria?

For classical liberals devolution and distribution of power are both good things which are  necessary for the best forms of government.

The monograph can be purchased for $10 by clicking here.