Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants states to raise their own income taxes rather than relying on grants from the federal government. While he’s there, maybe there are some other responsibilities that can be shifted between the states and the Commonwealth for a better federation.

Marriage laws
Having one consistent marriage law across Australia might sound like a solid way to manage the matter, but federal Parliament has been unwilling or unable to come to a reasonable decision. If the power were devolved to the states, marriage equality could become law.

The issue of marriage equality is now such a political football in federal Parliament that Labor and the Greens both attempted to shame the other by bringing on a vote on marriage equality in the Senate during last month’s all-night voting reform shenanigans. Labor is now threatening to try to bring on the legislation for what would likely be a failed vote in the next three sitting weeks of Parliament, when the government will try to pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation. And we now have no timeline on when the government would hold a plebiscite on the issue if re-elected. The ACT already passed marriage equality into law — perhaps we should just let state and territory governments do it.

Drug laws
Although the federal government is making moves to allow trials of medicinal cannabis, along with several of the states, perhaps responsibility for drug laws would be better left entirely to the states. Most experts seem to agree that the long-held zero-tolerance policy to recreational drugs is doing more harm than good, so perhaps handing responsibility to one arm of government might yield a better policy outcome.

That said, New South Wales’ steadfast opposition to even allowing recreational drug users to test whether their drugs are safe or not at music festivals suggests the states might take just as hardline an approach.

Industrial relations
As part of the Fair Work Act legislated by the Labor government, all states except WA handed over their responsibility for regulating private industrial relations to the federal government. Repealing the Fair Work Act is on the IPA’s wishlist — and if we’re handing back income tax, surely industrial relations comes next. Industrial relations has been a federal political football since the days of WorkChoices. Maybe it’s time to end the (federal) stalemate?

Gambling revenue
If states stop collecting all those sweet, sweet gambling taxes, we suspect rules around licensing and casinos in the various states would likely change very dramatically. Let’s let the federal government collect gambling revenue, to make the laws uniform.

Developer laws
While we’re at it, maybe the federal government should be responsible for development approvals. As the Independent Commission Against Corruption has shown, developers have been able to exert undue influence over state governments. And so pervasive is the extent of developers’ influence on political parties in the states that it is seeping into federal politics. Making the federal government responsible for development laws might help at least curb the problem.

Peter Fray

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