Federalism, subsidiarity, respect for local government and public enthusiasm for helping places around Australia to thrive economically and socially is the key to repairing the democratic vessel from which trust has leaked.
CPD Chairperson Terry Moran AC delivered the Annual John Cain Foundation Lecture 2019 on ‘Federalism: Commonwealth, State and Local Government Working Together’, on 27 November 2019.
In his address, Terry laid out changes in Commonwealth and State relationships over recent decades, with a move to greater centralisation in Canberra and increasing outsourcing of delivery to the private sector and not for profits. This has resulted in a loss of accountability and less engagement with local communities. It has been the disadvantaged, said Terry, who have been most adversely affected by these changes.
This situation is the direct result of policies, based in a particular set of ideas, which have been used by large, private interests to advance policy settlements favouring the few over the many. They are not fundamentally the inevitable consequence of the sort of parliamentary democracy we have.
Terry argues that subsidiarity is the answer: providing new respect for communities at the local level while equipping them with resources, strategies, systems and opportunities to work within local community and business networks and systems of democratic accountability. As Terry notes in his speech, CPD has been active on this front for some time. CPD’s work has shown that locally connected, place-based approaches to delivering critical services achieve better results.
Terry also drew on CPD’s attitudes research over the past two years about the public’s view of Australia’s democracy. What we have found is that Australians don’t want to blow up their democracy, they want to save it. When Australians are asked what they think the main purpose of democracy is, the answer twice as popular as any other is: “ensuring people are treated fairly and equally, including the most vulnerable in our community”. Australians believe democracy is a force for fairness and equality and would throw their support behind changes that get government and the economy working better for the community. We share a desire to improve the lives of others and to tackle our biggest problems together.
From What Do Australians Want?, CPD, 2017