The Character of Australian Federalism
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Current issues of taxing power, revenue distribution, policy jurisdiction and intergovernmental relations in Australia today must be seen in the context of the ‘character’ of Australia’s federal system. That character is given by the interaction between constitutional design, judicial interpretation, economic and social change, and political processes over the past century. Designed for an earlier epoch, Australian federalism has undergone substantial adaptation to meet the needs of modern social and economic conditions. As has been widely recognised, that adaptation has been highly centralising in its effect. While Australia is not alone in this respect— indeed, such tendencies have been endemic in the established federations — the syndrome is particularly evident in the Australian case. Aspects of this particular character raise continuing issues for resolution as well as imposing severe constraints on what solutions might realistically be considered.
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