Thursday, February 14, 2008

State against State? Give us a break!

Here we go. Rudd has embraced the conventional wisdom that we should eliminate the money "wasted" by duplication between the states and territories... eight education systems and so on.

I have written about this before quoting a document entitled Australia’s Federal Future produced for the states last year by the ANU’s Professor Glenn Withers and Dr Anne Twomey of the University of Sydney.

Now the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia has taken this work further in a new paper outlining Six Federal-State Myths.

Alan Mitchell summed up its central argument well in Wednesday's Financial Review:

Competition, the economist Jonathan Pincus reminds us, is messy. There is lots of expensive duplication but we happily accept that duplication because the benefits of competition outweigh the costs.

Yet, while we may all wish the new chief executive of Coles many happy years of Woolworths-challenging duplication, few of us have ever looked through the "waste and duplication" between the state and federal governments to notice the benefits of inter-government competition.

Yet Pincus, in an interesting new paper published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, argues that competition - among the states and between the states and the federal government to find the best policies - is a major benefit of our federal system. Pincus argues that "Australia has got most of the big things right".

Ross Gittins in Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald takes up the theme:

His article is entitled It's messy, but at least it works.