Thinking Big: Public opinion and options for reform of Australia's federal system
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After decades of debate, options have sharpened for the scope and process for meaningful reform of Australia's federal system. Signs can be found in public support for the Rudd government's short-term drive to reform intergovernmental relations, and the prominence of further reform proposals in the Australia 2020 'Ideas Summit' of April 2008. Following the summit theme of 'thinking big', this paper examines Australian citizens' attitudes towards the extent of reform needed or possible for 'fixing' the problems of Australian federalism, revealed by an Australian Research Councilfunded constitutional values survey conducted by the author and colleagues in May 2008. The extent and depth of public sympathy for reform demonstrates the importance of an approach which embraces the medium and long-term development of Australia's system of governance, in addition to short-term improvements. Large sections of Australia's citizenry have the capacity to 'think big' about reform of the federal system by 2020. In conclusion an argument is made for reform processes that heed this evidence and maximise this opportunity.
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