Federalism Resources

General resources

COAG and cooperative federalism

Fiscal federalism

Approaches to federal reform 

Current issues


Health and hospitals reform

Murray-Darling Basin reform



General resources

Commonwealth of Australia, Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014)

Through focus on a number of issues relevant to the Federation, the White paper seeks to clarify roles and responsibilities to ensure that, as far as possible, the States and Territories are sovereign in their own sphere.

Secretary of PM&C Terry Moran delivers address at Eidos Institute on ‘The challenges of federalism’ (8 June 2011) 

Anne Twomey and Glenn Withers, Australia's Federal Future: Delivering Growth and Prosperity, A Report for the Council for the Australian Federation (2007).

This report, commissioned by the Council for the Australian Federation, argues that Australia’s federal system offers many real and potential benefits, and offers suggestions for reform.

Scott Bennett and Richard Webb, Chronology of Australian Federalism, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra (2007).

A chronology of major events in the development of Australian federalism. Also contains a list of constitutional provisions relevant to federal-state relations, and a list of Parliamentary Library papers on federalism.

Scott Bennett, The Politics of the Australian Federal System, Research Brief No 4, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra (2006).

Gives an overview of Australian federalism, including its strengths and weaknesses, and canvasses some options for reform.

AJ Brown and Jennifer Bellamy (eds), Federalism and Regionalism in Australia: New Approaches, New Institutions?, Canberra: ANU E Press (2006).

A collection of articles from a symposium of the same name in 2006. Includes chapters on regionalism, local government, public attitudes to federalism and principles for progressing the debate on federal reform.

Greg Craven, ‘The New Centralism and the Collapse of the Conservative Constitution’in Kay Walsh (ed), Papers on Parliament No. 44, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 133-149 (2006).  

Examines the relationship between conservatism and Australian federalism; responds to various criticisms of Australian federalism; and, argues that the Howard government’s approach to federalism was inconsistent with conservative philosophy.

Geoffrey de Q. Walker, ‘Ten Advantages of a Federal Constitution’Policy, vol. 16, no. 4, 35-41 (2000).

Outlines ten advantages of federal systems.

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COAG and cooperative federalism

Commonwealth of Australia, “Issues Paper 1 - A Federation for Our Future,” Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014).

NSW Parliamentary Research Service, ‘COAG’, Briefing Paper No 6/2013, (July 2013).

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Report 427: Inquiry into National Funding Agreements (24 November 2011).

Productivity Commission, Impacts and Benefits of COAG Reforms: Reporting Framework(Research Report, December 2010).

Gareth Griffith, ‘Managerial Federalism – COAG and the States’ (Briefing Paper No 10/09, Parliamentary Library Research Service, Parliament of NSW, 2009).

John Wanna et al, ‘Common Cause – Strengthening Australia’s Cooperative Federalism’ (Final Report to the Council for the Australian Federation, May 2009).

George Williams, Working Together – Inquiry into Options for a New National Industrial Relations System (Chapter 3; Final Report, November 2007).

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Approaches to federal reform

Andrew Lynch and George Williams, ‘Beyond a Federal Structure: Is a Constitutional Commitment to a Federal Relationship Possible?’University of New South Wales Law Journal, vol. 31, no. 2, 395-434 (2008).

Considers the case for formal constitutional recognition of the federal relationship between Commonwealth and State governments.

Anne Twomey, ‘Reforming Australia’s Federal System’ (2008) 1 Federal Law Review 36, 57-81.

Argues for reform of Australian federalism in three areas: the reallocation of powers and responsibilities between the levels of government; the improvement of mechanisms for intergovernmental cooperation; and, the reform of Commonwealth-State financial relations.

Business Council of Australia, A Charter for a New Federalism (2007).

The BCA calls on the nation’s leaders to work cooperatively through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to deliver national reforms.

Business Council of Australia, Reshaping Australia’s Federation: A New Contract for Federal State Relations (2006).

The BCA proposes a 12-point plan to improve the effectiveness of Australian’s federal system.

Productivity Commission, ‘Productive Reform in a Federal System’in Annual Report 2004-05, Annual Report Series, Productivity Commission, Canberra (2005).  

Gives an overview of the role of competition and cooperation in federal-state relations; emphasises the importance of intergovernmental cooperation in addressing national challenges, such as increasing globalization, environmental stability and an ageing population; and, suggests some directions for reform.

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Fiscal federalism

Commonwealth of Australia, “Issues Paper 5 – COAG and Federal Financial Relations,Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014).

GST Review Panel, GST distribution Review Final Report to the States and Territories (30 November 2012).

Economy and Infrastructure References Committee, Legislative Council of Victoria, Report on Inquiry into Commonwealth Payments to Victoria (November 2012).

This report considers the adequacy of National Partnership Payments (NPPs) and Local Government Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) made by the Commonwealth in the State of Victoria. It also examines Commonwealth Own Purpose Expenditure undertaken in Victoria. Amongst its findings, the Committee reports that National Partnership Agreements, which provide for NPPs, are often complex and can hinder the effective delivery of services in Victoria. It also notes that FAGs have not kept pace with local government expenditure and this is placing significant pressure on local councils.

Neil Warren, Benchmarking Australia’s Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangements: Final Report, Prepared for New South Wales Treasury (2006).

This report, prepared for the NSW Treasury, examines how Australia’s intergovernmental fiscal arrangements perform against a range of ‘best practice’ benchmark criteria.

Richard Webb, Developments in Commonwealth-State Financial Relations Since 2000-01, Research Brief no 11, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra (2006).

Examines developments in Commonwealth-State financial relations from the introduction of the GST to the beginning of 2006.

Richard Webb,Commonwealth General Purpose Financial Assistance to Local Government, Research Paper, no 1, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra (2003).

Examines how the Commonwealth determines the level and distribution of financial assistance it provides to local government, and looks at some key issues in relation to the provision of that assistance.

Denis James, Federal-State Financial Relations: The Deakin Prophecy, Research Paper, no 17, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra (2000). 

Examines the process by which financial power has, since Federation, gradually become more concentrated in the hands of the Commonwealth, and considers the repercussions of this.

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Current issues


Commonwealth of Australia, “Issues Paper 4 – Roles and Responsibilities in Education,”Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014).

Marilyn Harrington, ‘Australian Government Funding for Schools Explained’(Background Note, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, 31 January 2011).  

Council for the Australian Federation, The Future of Schooling in Australia(Federalist Paper No 2, September 2007).

Health and hospitals reform

Commonwealth of Australia, “Issues Paper 3 – Roles and Responsibilities in Health,”Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014.)

National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, A Healthier Future for All Australians (Final Report, June 2009).

Sharon Scully, ‘Does the Commonwealth have Constitutional Power to Take Over the Administration of Public Hospitals?’(Research Paper No 36, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, 30 June 2009).

House Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, The Blame Game: The Report on the Inquiry into Health Funding (Parliament of Australia, December 2006).  

Gareth Griffith, ‘Commonwealth-State Responsibilities for Health – “Big Bang” or Incremental Reform?’ (Briefing Paper No 17/06, Parliamentary Library Research Service, Parliament of NSW, 2006).

Murray-Darling Basin Reform

COAG, “Intergovernmental Agreement on Implementing Water Reform in the Murray Darling Basin,” (11 June 2013.)

Paul Kildea and George Williams, ‘The Constitution and the Management of Water in Australia’s Rivers’ (2010) 32 Sydney Law Review 595-616.

Senate Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee, ‘The management of the Murray-Darling Basin:Interim report: the impact of mining coal seam gas on the management of the Murray Darling Basin’; (November 2011).

House Standing Committee on Regional Australia tables final report following inquiry into the Impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia (2 June 2011.)

The Hon Justice Rachel Pepper, ‘The Constitutionalisation of Water Rights’(Paper delivered at Constitutional Law Conference, Sydney, 18 February 2011).

Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan (October 2010).


Commonwealth of Australia, “Issues Paper 2 – Roles and Responsibilities in Housing and Homelessness,” Reform of the Federation White Paper (2014)

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