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Australians want changes to federalism

The majority of Australians support changes to Australia's system of government including the removal of state governments, according to a survey released this week. The 2010 Australian…

The majority of Australians support changes to Australia's system of government including the removal of state governments, according to a survey released this week.

The 2010 Australian Constitutional Values Survey has provided the latest snapshot of Australians' attitudes towards federalism and the results show changes need to be made.

Conducted nationally by Newspoll and funded by the Australian Research Council, 1100 respondents were interviewed in March.

Commenting on the survey results, Griffith Law School's professor AJ Brown said that overall support for reform has grown dramatically since the last survey conducted in 2008.

"When asked about what levels of government, and how many governments they thought Australia should have in 20 years, 66 per cent of respondents in 2008 indicated a system different from today," said Brown.

"In March 2010, that figure has increased to 75 per cent of respondents."

While support for reform has increased overall, the greatest increase in support was for the removal of the state level of government, with support from thirty-nine percent of respondents - up from 31 per cent in 2008.

Alternatively, 42 percent supported the creation of a new level of regional government - up from 32 per cent.

Of the current levels of government, the survey indicated that the federal level of government continues to be perceived as the most effective at its job. Twenty-seven per cent perceive the local level as the most effective and 17 per cent perceive the state level as the most effective.

Despite this support for the removal of state governments, according to the survey, 50 per cent of Australians would still prefer a system of government with three or more levels.

Forty-five per cent prefer a system with only one or two levels of government.

Professor Brown said many of the factors affecting attitudes towards Australia's system, and to particular levels of government, require further research and analysis.

"Attitudes to the government presently in power, and phases of the electoral cycle at any given time, clearly play a role in shifts in attitudes," Brown said.

"However the consistent picture from both surveys is that Australians do hold views about the current state and future development of their federal system, which support the need for a more structured program of research and debate for shaping that future."

According to Brown, a strategic processes for reviewing key roles, responsibilities and resources at all levels of government is imperative for developing long-term solutions to major policy challenges such as health and the environment.

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