The Federation Press

Restructuring Australia

Regionalism, republicanism and reform of the nation-state

Overview

The Australian system of government is now over a century old. The country has changed out of all recognition; does the structure of government need change also?

Restructuring Australia provides accessible accounts of current debate on three key issues: regionalism, republicanism and reform of the nation-state. Leading commentators from across the political spectrum ask the fundamental questions: what do Australians want and need from their system of government and what role will structural reform play in delivering this vision in the twenty-first century?

The first section of the book examines whether Australia, as a nation, has the right territorial structure of government. Should we have more or fewer or different States? Or is Australia’s current federal constitutional structure still appropriate despite the modern shape of Australian regionalism?

The second theme is the role Australians want for their official head-of-state: who should be head-of-state, what relationship should they have with the Australian people, and what process should be involved?

The final section considers where Australia’s structure of government stands in relation to the outside world. It analyses how Australia’s structure of government is performing in light of worldwide changes in the role of the nation-state, and asks how structural reforms might help the Australian nation-state to operate in a globalising world.

Contributors: Tony Abbott, Geoffrey Blainey, David Flint, Brian Galligan, Ian Gray, Linda Hancock, Reuben Humphries, Chris Hurford, Mark McKenna, Allan Patience, Charles Sampford, Cheryl Saunders, Jim Soorley, George Winterton, Klaas Woldring.

Reviews

This collection of essays is a timely reminder that, notwithstanding the dormancy of the republic question since the referendum of 1999, issues relating to Australians’ ‘political aspirations, social needs and economic potential’ (p. 2) require national debate. Organised in three sections concerned with regions, a republic and institutional adaptation to globalisation, it brings together contributions from a range of stakeholders: political figures, constitutional lawyers, historians, academics and student activists. Chapters are short (on average a dozen pages) and businesslike, presenting each author’s views with minimal jargon and optimal clarity. - Reviews in Australian Studies No 1, March 2006

This lively and timely book seeks to explore the options and consequences for structural institutional change by addressing three fundamental questions. First, what is the spatial or territorial structure of Australian government? Five contributors examine regionalisation through a variety of perspectives, ranging from Geoffrey Blainey’s call for each major region to become its own State to Cheryl Saunders’ analysis of the implications of regional governments for constitutional change. Secondly, who is in charge and how should the head-of-state relate to Parliament, the Government and the citizenry? Under the rubric of ‘Republicanism’ a further five contributors from vastly divergent disciplines and philosophical backgrounds (David Flint, for example, is juxtaposed with Mark McKenna) exemplify the tension between the defenders of Australian traditions of conservative legalism to the more progressive advocates of a participatory process to effect change. The third section of the book discusses reform of the nation state against the background of the rapid changes associated with contemporary globalisation. Again viewpoints are sharply varied. Tony Abbott MHR argues for the strengthening of an already centralised structure, while Allan Patience believes the current federal structure is increasingly fragmented, ramshackle and anachronistic and suggests Richard Falk’s model; of ‘globalisation from below’ is the answer. The book therefore fulfils its main aim of exploring different ways of thinking about when change might be needed and different ways that our society deals with its options. - Australian Historical Studies, 126, 2005

Want a better world? Why not start with a better Australia? Indeed, why not start with this edited collection of ideas for a better Australia? ... This fresh contribution to public debate packs quite a punch. - Canberra Times, 7 September 2004, 8

This book is a collection of 17 short essays on three interrelated themes – regionalism, republicanism and reform of Australia’s federal system of government. Some conservative views are represented ... [but] most of the essays involve quite interesting explorations of more progressive possibilities for reform. Particularly worthwhile are chapters on the nature of regionalism (by Ian Gray), on the case for abolishing State governments (Jim Soorley), and a proposal for replacing them with more numerous regional governments (Chris Hurford). Other chapters usefully stress the history and problems of our existing federal arrangements (Geoffrey Blainey, Allan Patience), the general case for embracing social and political change (Linda Hancock) and the possibilities for a progressive regionalist response to globalisation (Charles Sampford and AJ Brown). Among the chapters in the section of the book dealing with the issue of republicanism, the cautious assessment (by Brian Galligan) of previous attempts at constitutional change contrasts with the bold assertion (by Klaas Woldring) of the case for achieving a ‘maximalist republic’ through a strategic participative process. Overall, the book is a compendium of views on possible changes to governance in Australia that are consistent both with the pressures of globalisation and the interests of a citizenry with roots in local communities. It throws up challenging ideas for reform. - Journal of Australian Political Economy

Table of Contents

Restructuring Australia
AJ Brown and Wayne Hudson

Part I Regionalism
Regionalism: an introduction
AJ Brown
What is regionalism?
Ian Gray
Why every major region should be its own State
Geoffrey Blainey
Do we need a federal system? The case for abolishing State governments
Jim Soorley
A republican federation of regions: re-forming a wastefully governed Australia
Chris Hurford
The constitutional framework for a regional Australia
Cheryl Saunders

Part II Republicanism
Republicanism: an introduction
Wayne Hudson
Australian republicanism, sovereignty and the States
David Flint
The republic, democracy and reconciliation
Mark McKenna
A maximalist republic: achieving constitutional change by a strategic, participative process
Klaas Woldring
A model for electing the Australian president
George Winterton
Political parties and constitutional change
Brian Galligan

Part III Reform of the Nation-State
Reform of the nation-state: an introduction
AJ Brown
Globalisation, identities and the Australian nation-state
Wayne Hudson
Restructuring Australia: from economic to social to political change
Linda Hancock
Responsible federalism
Tony Abbott
From One Nation to new nation: Australian federalism in a globalising world
Allan Patience
Go global, think local: rethinking national constitutions in the age of globalisation
Charles Sampford and AJ Brown
Regionalism, republicanism and the role of the nation-state: a young person’s perspective
Reuben Humphries

Index

Of interest...