The shifting federal balance and the failure of Bjelke-Petersen to advance the cause of states' rights

Alvey, John Ralph (1998). The shifting federal balance and the failure of Bjelke-Petersen to advance the cause of states' rights M.A. Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Alvey, John Ralph
Thesis Title The shifting federal balance and the failure of Bjelke-Petersen to advance the cause of states' rights
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1998
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Supervisor -
Total pages 137
Language eng
Subjects 360101 Australian Government and Politics
Formatted abstract This thesis argues that the Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who was Queensland Premier from 1968 to 1987, did not advance the cause of States' Rights in the Australian Federation. Bjelke-Petersen had a controversial role in the 1975 Constitutional crisis with his constant criticisms of the Whitlam Government and his use of the Senate as a States' House. The media journalists and some academics have referred to Bjelke- Petersen as a States' Rights champion however a closer look disproves this claim. Despite his advocacy for a return to the Founders original intention for a co-ordinate federal system, where the Commonwealth and the States are independent of each other, Bjelke-Petersen did not negotiate with the Commonwealth for greater State legal and financial responsibility.

The shift in the federal balance away from the States toward the Commonwealth has been mainly due to the decisions of the High Court and the Vertical Fiscal Imbalance between the Commonwealth and the States that has been upheld by the High Court. I use the High Court decisions to demonstrate the background to the development of States' Rights arguments against the increasing centralising of power in Australia of the Commonwealth Government at the expense of the legal and financial independence of the States.

The origin and development of States' Rights is evaluated in the four stages of the development of the shifting federal balance: (1) the Original Intentions of the Founders for co-ordinate federalism; (2) the Drift Away from the Original Intention of the Founders for co-ordinate federalism; (3) the Fight Back in the 1970s by the States, led by the Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, against Commonwealth interference in the constitutional functions of the States; (4) The Queensland National Party Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his views on States' Rights in Australia's co-ordinate federal system, which were in reality anti-Commonwealth Government and anti-Labor party political ideology. 

I conclude that after the end of the Bjelke-Petersen era of confrontationist style federalism, there have been some encouraging signs of cooperation in intergovernmental relations. Recent developments in Australian federalism have shown some success with a cooperative approach between the Commonwealth and the States.
Keyword States' rights (American politics)
Federal government -- Australia
Australia -- Politics and government -- 20th century
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

 
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