Monday, 3 November 2014

Tony Abbott's strange view of Australian history strikes again

The Abbott Government is now turning its ideologically blinkered eye towards ‘reforming’ the federation of states which underpins the Commonwealth of Australia.

Then we had no national government. Then, as we’ve been reminded earlier this evening, we had six colonies, each of them with a prime minister.....
A hundred years ago the states were clearly responsible for funding and operating public schools, public hospitals, public transport, roads, police, housing and planning. Under our constitution, the states are still legally responsible for them...
[Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Sir Henry Parkes Commemorative Dinner speech, 25 October 2014]

Oh dear, Australia had six prime ministers prior to Federation? Under the Australian Constitution the states are clearly responsible for funding public hospitals?

No, Mr. Abbott. The six colonies had six premiers, which headed governments with more limited power than a post-1901 federal government headed by a prime minister, because they were legally obliged to take direction from the British government of the day and a federal government is not so obliged.

As for who is responsible for providing public hospital services, the constitution clearly states that Commonwealth has the power to make laws for the provision of pharmaceutical, 
sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services and it was under Part V – Powers of the Parliament that the federal parliament created universal health care including inpatient/outpatient free care in public hospitals. So the federal government has accepted that it is responsible in large measure for funding public hospitals and clearly in broad control of health service delivery.

Thankfully it will take a majority of people in a majority of states and a majority of people across the nation as a whole vote 'yes' to whatever question our historically illiterate prime minister decides to put to the electorate in any national referendum seeking to dismantle the federation model in the Australian Constitution.

With his tin ear, I cannot see him convincing the average voter that 'reforming' the constitution to further cost-shift towards the states is a good idea.


Glenn Cawthorne said...

It genuinely grieves me to tell you this but Tony Abbott got it right. Prior to Federation the colonial heads of government were styled 'prime minister'. They became 'premiers' at Federation when the colonies became states and the title 'prime minister' moved across to the federal arena. The colonies were also self-governing and by the latter decades of the 19th century took little, if any, day-to-day direction from Britain with regard to internal colonial affairs.

clarencegirl said...

Think I prefer to take the titles used in parliamentary records and non-government historical records as evidence.

*23 December 1854 W C Haines referred to as Victorian Premier
*23 April 1855 W C Haines referred to as Premier
* 30 January 1856 S A Donaldson referred to as possibly next NSW Treasurer and Premier
* 27 October 1859 W Nicholson referred to as Victorian Premier
* 2 January 1874 H Parkes referred to as Chief Secretary and Premier of NSW
* 28 September 1877 A Stuart referred to as NSW Premier
* 9 June 1892 G R Dibbs referred to as NSW Premier
* 19 July 1898 G H Reid referred to as NSW Premier

Anonymous said...

Far as I can tell Prime Minister didn't become official title in U.K. until 1880s and wasn't used officially by Australian colonial governments at all for their leaders.