Take Tony up on his suggestion. A Labor Party not overcome with conservative caution would be rushing today to take up the suggestion by Liberal frontbencher Tony Abbott for a change in the Constitution to to empower the national parliament to make laws generally for the peace, order and good government of the commonwealth. Mr Abbott’s proposed amendment to section 51 of the Constitution would not abolish the states, just ensure that in the event of disagreement the national government calls the shots.

The proposal was put forward this morning in a column written for The Australian and shows there is merit in encouraging MPs who are not ministers to supplement their income by a little journalism on the side. Tony Abbott knows that to keep bringing home extra bacon, so his lifestyle does not suffer too much from the loss of the perks of office, it is necessary to have something to say other than cheap political point scoring. His analysis of federal-state relations does that and is a reminder that he is one of the brighter men to serve in the House of Representatives.

Should Victoria be able to veto reform of water use in the Murray-Darling Basin? Should NSW be able to opt out of an education revolution? Should all the states bar Western Australia be able to stymie a national bid to provide more disability accommodation? I doubt it. Should modern Australia consider itself bound by the intergovernmental arrangements of a previous century, even as adjusted by the High Court? Or should matters in dispute be settled by the national parliament as the highest democratic authority in the land? On this, I think we all have a clear sense of where the public really stands.

Of the three options for fixing the federation, mere tinkering, on the grounds that this is about as good as it can get, is really a cop-out. Giving more authority and commensurate revenue powers back to the states is possible but implausible. So why not give the national government constitutional authority to match people’s expectations about who should really be in charge? Let’s amend section 51 of the Constitution …

Tony Abbott believes change will come once the Rudd version of co-operative federalism fails, as it inevitably will, so people had better all start thinking about the best ways to make it happen.

Kevin Rudd would be wise to agree and a House of Representatives committee chaired by Tony Abbott would be an excellent way to get things started.

A drug dominated election for election junkies. It’s hard for election junkies not to have withdrawal symptoms after that lengthy United States campaign so just a little something to be going on with. The people of the tiny west African nation of Guinea Bissau (population 1.7 million) go to the polls on Sunday to elect a Parliament after a campaign dominated by talk of drug trafficking.

Guinea Bissau, one of the world’s poorest nations, was described in a recent Agence France Press report as an important transit point for cocaine coming from Latin America en route to the lucrative European markets. Bissau’s biggest opposition party the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cap Verde (PAIGC) has accused political rivals of receiving campaign money from drug lords. “Only blind people cannot see that certain parties are financed with drug money,” PAIC leader Carlos Gomes Junior told a October 29 rally.

The leader of the newly formed Republican Party for Independence and Development (PRID), former prime minister Aristide Gomes, a close ally of president Joao Bernardo Viera, boasted that it was during his tenure that the only seizure of cocaine was made in Guinea Bissau.

In September 2006 , 647 kilos of cocaine were seized by the police but the drugs disappeared while being transferred to the public treasury for security reasons.

A little bit of that should help someone have a real Don’s Party.

Unfortunately for we election addicts the next poll on the list, that for president of the Ivory Coast scheduled for 30 November, has been postponed indefinitely because of delays in voter registrations and security concerns. We will now have to wait for Ghana on 7 December when drug trafficking will again be a major issue. Kwesi Aning, head of research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre recently said he was amazed at the amount of money being splashed around in Ghana ahead of presidential elections.

It is not known if the NSW Branch of the Labor Party has sent observers to West Africa to observe the latest election fund raising techniques. 

Do Liberals really want to abolish the last remnants of Westminster. The accusation of cooking the books that is being levelled at the Federal Treasury by the Liberal Party suggests that we are now not far away from completely ridding ourselves of the notion of an independent and impartial public service. If the alternative government really believes that the public servants are falsifying the growth figures to aid and abet the Labor Government then they are saying that our senior public servants are people of no integrity. They are either Labor stooges or public service whores who will do the bidding of whoever instructs them. In either case we would then be better off making clearly political appointments.

Why the hurry? I’ve never really understood why opposition political parties are so keen to seize on things like their current suggestion that the books are being cooked to show that economic growth is expected to be 2% not 1.5% or some even lower figure. The public will end up judging the Government not by whether their estimate proved right or wrong but what the figure ends up being. If growth staggers to a halt the Government is in trouble and will be punished for it with the previous optimistic forecast available to be used as evidence of the incompetence that caused the problem. Should it turn out to be round about right or a little on the low side in a year’s time there will be no merit marks awarded for making an accurate assessment back in November 2008. Whatever the case, the impact will have nothing to do with anything the Opposition says or does now.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey