Tide turned, 93 years ago

In the context of Liberal State dominance, it is hardly surprising that Tony Abbott claims to have converted to “States’ rights” (“The tide is turning against centralism in favour of states’ rights”, The Australian, 17/8), although his characteristically eloquent argument that “you’ve got too many cooks fiddling in the one broth” could be read either way.

But the announcement that “[t]he tide for those who favour states’ rights finally seems to be turning” is probably about 90 years too late. The 1920 “Engineers case” in the High Court, reinforced by every subsequent ruling on the subject, established that the Constitution does not guarantee States any powers beyond those it explicitly provides. Since then their residual colonial powers have inexorably shrunk with each exercise of federal power. There is no reason to suppose that this process will reverse itself merely because it suits Abbott’s current purposes.

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