On Saturday evening, Tony Abbott delivered the Sir Henry Parkes Oration in Tenterfield, kicking off what will be a growing debate about the nature and mechanism of Australian federalism between now and the next election.

The Prime Minister's speech reflected the thoughtful and honest views of a politician who, as health minister in the Howard government, experienced first-hand the complexities of federalism in one of the most important areas of public policy. Indeed, his speech was partly about his own personal intellectual journey from a "philosophical federalist into a pragmatic nationalist", and beyond; since becoming leader of his party, Abbott has abandoned the proposal he put forward in his 2009 book Battlelines for a constitutional amendment giving the Commonwealth an automatic capacity to override state legislation.