CSU's Bede Harris says COVID has shown need for constitutional reform

IT IS TIME: Senior law lecturer Bede Harris's new book explores constitutional reform including the removal of state borders and governments. Picture: MARK JESSER
IT IS TIME: Senior law lecturer Bede Harris's new book explores constitutional reform including the removal of state borders and governments. Picture: MARK JESSER

State borders are simply illogical, arbitrary lines harking back to colonial times which should be removed entirely, a senior law lecturer and proponent of constitutional reform says.

Charles Sturt Univeristy's Bede Harris, based in the NSW-Victorian border towns of Albury-Wodonga, said COVID-19 and state border closures had exposed how antiquated the federalism three-tier government system was.

"I think this COVID crisis has revealed how nonsensical it is," he said.

"That states don't have any basis in reality, in the sense they're just the accidents where colonial boundaries were drawn.

"If we were to sit down and draft a constitution all over again I doubt we'd lay down arbitrary lines across the country and say 'right now we're going to create governments for these areas'."

Dr Harris this week releases his book Constitutional Reform as a Remedy for Politicial Disenchantment in Australia: The Discussion We Need, and estimates abolishing states would save Australia $58 billion a year.

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He said there should be a national government and one set of laws for the country, with local governments administering local affairs.

Dr Harris said if Australia was presided over by a single national government, restrictions on movement logically would be placed on areas that were COVID hotspots, but the rest of the nation - including towns on state borders - would be unrestricted.

"That would be a rational solution to the current problem," Dr Harris said.

"The solution we have at the moment are irrational in that they prohibit people from moving between areas that don't have any COVID cases. I think it's brought the bankruptcy of the federal system into focus."

The COVID-19 crisis had also emphasised that Australia needed its own bill of rights, Dr Harris said.

"(The current situation) certainly sharpens people's focus and makes them realise what they haven't before, that there is insufficient protection against excessive exercise of governmental power," he said.

Dr Harris said many Australians paradoxically did not like the way Australia was being governed but were apprehensive about constitutional change, as they didn't realise many flaws in the system arose from the document.

He said the constitution should not be seen as unchangeable but should evolve to suit the modern world.

"I don't think we have a democracy anymore, we just have power shifting from Labor to the Coalition," he said.

"We need to break that party system and a more proportional electoral system would do that."

This story Is it time to get rid of state borders entirely? This expert says so first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.