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Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (Image: AAP/David Crosling)

Constitutional fight, incoming. Scott Morrison has excited the hairs on the backs of the necks of constitutional scholars with his proposed new law giving the Commonwealth government unprecedented new powers to decide who gets to make deals in Australia and the circumstances under which they make them.

All we know so far is that the Australian foreign minister will be empowered to cancel agreements that states, territories, local governments and universities enter into with an overseas government, if they contradict Australia’s national interest. Even existing agreements, such as Victoria’s deal with Beijing under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, can be cancelled.

This is muscular centralism of a whole new brand. It also comes at a strange moment, standing in stark contrast to Morrison’s constant denial of responsibility for COVID-related scandals and disasters because our federal system gives most of the power to the states.