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Towards a More Regional Federalism: Rural and Urban Attitudes to Institutions, Governance and Reform in Australia

  • Year: 2006
  • Author: Brown, AJ; Gray, Ian; Giorgas, Dimitria
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol. 16, No. 3
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: Queensland, New South Wales

Governance reform is increasingly understood in terms of partnerships, flexibility and growth in the 'noninstitutionalised' forms of decision-making, but what do Australians make of the governmental institutions still so crucial to the theory and reality of governance? In Australian discussions about new spatial approaches to governance, this question is especially fundamental because in its relatively brief 200 year postcolonisation history, Australia has come to have an unusually centralised system of government. This article explores the attitudes of Australian citizens towards their existing key institutions of governance, in particular the federal political system in its various spatial and hierarchical dimensions. We present some key findings from a random sample survey of 502 New South Wales rural and urban residents in late 2005, building on an earlier survey of 301 Queensland residents undertaken in 2001. The surveys indicate attitudes towards the present system and preferences regarding change, including options from new states to stronger regional institutions within the current framework. Findings are reported against demographic and other characteristics, including levels of satisfaction with present systems. Interstate and urban-regional comparisons are made. We conclude that high popular interest in change, which transcends the 'urban-rural' divide to a much higher degree than anticipated, provides a strong basis for a more open and less partisan political debate about institutional reform than may have been possible for some decades.

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