Changes are afoot. But are we failing to see the wood for the trees?
The comment by Arthur Sinodinos, that “the health network proposal is the harbinger of the federation inexorably dissolving into a quasi regional model along British lines”, is a particularly relevant and timely reminder that the major decisions in the next few years are not about building 4 lane highways or pursuing puerile populist policies like royalties for regions, but in helping chart the administrative structure for the medium term future.
The proposed Federal hospital changes are only the beginning. Changes to primary care and aged care are still to come. And who believes that the Fed funding of 60% of our hospitals is their final offer? Why 60%? Why not 70% or even 100%.
Fed general purpose grants via GST are almost 40% of the State’s revenue so if we lose 30% then that’s 12% of the State’s revenue. Plus there are Specific Purpose Grants and National Partnership Payments re health totaling about $300m or about 7% of our revenue which may well be withdrawn.
Health currently receives 25% of the State’s Budget allocations. About 70% of this relates to hospitals so the proposed Rudd changes will have far reaching effects on the future role of the State Government.
And inevitably changes to education funding will occur, hastened by the debacle engineered by the current Minister. Education makes up a further 25% of Budget outlays.
We could well be looking at a completely different set of Budget papers in a few years time.
And over the last 18 months the third tier of Government has lost almost half its rate base, stripped away into GBEs. The Government may have done a poor job of explaining and implementing this policy, but Councils are still largely continuing with business as usual with half their revenue. A reassessment of Council’s future roles and structures would seem to be warranted.
Councils and State Governments losing considerable functions have hardly received any attention.
Group Think always scares me a little. The current preoccupation with the need to increase the size of the Lower House may well lead us to lose focus on the more important issues facing Tasmania.
TT’s psephologist, Dr Kev (HERE) estimated that the March 20 election would have produced a 14-14-7 split in a 35 Member House. So Labor’s ‘gene pool’ would have been boosted with the reinclusion of Mr Hulme and Mr Llewellyn and the addition of Mr McLean. The ‘pool’ may appear larger, but nevertheless still looks prone to severe evaporative loss on a warm day. The dominant genes that those 3 gentlemen bring to the pool have arguably led to the predicament that we are now facing (if TT bloggers are to have any credibility!).
So what’s the point?
Historically Upper Houses were designed to restrain the proletariat downstairs lest they become too excited with their newly won freedom.
But in recent years the Legislative Council is starting to pull its weight as a more representative body contributing to better legislative outcomes. Its Committees work harder and produce more meaningful reports than downstairs. Its Estimates’ committees are more civil and less adversarial than the clowns downstairs.
There are 40 elected Members in the 2 Houses. If State Governments are to lose some of their functions in the next few years do we really need more?
Perhaps we do, but more pressing is a more honest re-appraisal of the challenges facing us and the various options available.