Deliberating Federalism: Can the Australian Public Help Resolve Federalism’s Triple Challenge?

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Deem, Jacob
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Mark Bruerton, Tracey Arklay, Robyn Hollander and Ron Levy

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2017
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On 28 June 2014, then Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott announced the Terms of Reference for a White Paper on Reform of the Australian Federation, triggering a year of intense intergovernmental and official engagement on imperatives and options for improving Australian federalism.1 Earlier chapters in this volume have analysed many of the factors that led to the official abandonment of the reform process,2 despite the increasingly concerning nature of Australian federalism.3 In this chapter, I problematise the process' lack of reform - the experiences and views of Australia citizens. Apart from one major public speech in a historic but remote town,4 a series of largely technical stakeholder roundtables hosted by officials, and minor investment in some outreach activity by a small expert advisory panel, the only attempt at wider civic engagement with the reform process was staged photo opportunities for the media. The lack of public engagement is a problem endemic to federal reform in Australia. Arguably, it exemplifies concerns Gray and Brown raised in 2007, when they noted: 'many political leaders and commentators presume that if [public opinions about federalism] exist at all, public awareness of federalism is unsophisticated.'5 In this chapter, I reject the idea that citizens fo not have intelligible views about federalism, and therefore aim to demonstrate the importance of public attitudes in federal reform debates.

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A People's Federation

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Australian Government and Politics

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