Australia has three levels of government:
- The Australian Government deals with national issues such as taxation, trade and defence.
- The 8 state and territory governments are generally responsible for (among other things) transport, health, education and policing.
- About 700 local government councils are responsible for local services such as roads, urban planning, garbage and stormwater, etc.
This weekend, the Victorian state Premier (more or less equivalent to a state governor in the US), Steve Bracks, announced his surprise resignation from the position, only 8 months after being re-elected for another term. He cited family reasons for this step, and commentators noted a recent serious drink-driving offence by one of his children. Some hinted at other problems in his family.
Bracks seemed to be an efficient and honest politician, the kind we certainly cannot afford to lose. He reportedly worked 90 hours a week in this position. Recently NSW Premier Morris Iemma was criticised for taking two weeks holiday from his position to spend time with his young family.
I can't help feeling we are moving in the wrong direction on this one. Australia has the "Westminster" system of government, in which the parliament (all elected members) makes decisions, but more and more it seems to be the majority party, the Cabinet (the senior members of the majority party who are responsible for directing the public service departments) and, increasingly, the leader, who make the decisions. Our Prime Minister and Premiers, supposedly leaders among equals, are becoming more like presidents. This focuses the power and responsibility too much, and places too much pressure on those individuals. I don't believe we want our political leaders to sacrifice that much. I can't help feeling some of the best people will not be prepared to make the sacrifice, and we'll all suffer.
Read more about the Bracks resignation.