Aristotle in Dunedin

Aristotle was right. A great city does not need a big population. It can even be as small as Dunedin’s. But every great city needs a population that is passionate about itself, ambitious for its future, and optimistic about its outlook. [...]

Submission to the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government

Should local government be recognised in the Constitution? And would such recognition make a practical difference? International experience suggests that constitutional recognition alone does not determine the practical power and influence that local government authorities can exert. A comparison of the legal situation in Germany and Switzerland provides a good illustration. [...]

Dollars must flow if numbers to grow

Debate about Australia's population is framed with national aggregates and ignores how local governments deal with increased population. Part of the reason Australians are averse to more people is because local councils are ill equipped to absorb them and many are forcing residents to pay for them. [...]

Growing anger in local government

Population growth has been one of the major political debates during the past two years. However (and despite all the federal noise around population growth) Canberra is not the place where the debate belongs. [...]

Local councils deserve a better financial deal

For a new report, we recently surveyed all of Australia's local councils. We wanted to find out how they perceived the financial consequences of catering for more people. We also asked them about their responses, and what they thought of their revenue-raising capabilities. [...]

Australia’s Angry Mayors

To understand the effects of a growing population on Australia’s councils, CIS surveyed local authorities from all over the country. The results are alarming. The level of frustration with inadequate finance for required infrastructure upgrades is high, and population growth is the reason behind rate hikes. Local government finance reform is overdue. [...]

Learning from Europe’s competitive spirit

Competition between political entities, whether they are countries, states or cities, has correctly been identified as one of the fundamental conditions for creating prosperity. But in Australia, we have abolished the possibility of such competition at both the federal and the local level. If we want to prepare Australia for future growth it is high time to reinstall the ‘killer app’ that once made the West – and Australia – rich. [...]

Perpetuating the Canberra reflex

In terms of its land mass, Australia is the sixth largest country on earth. The distances between the state capitals are enormous and travelling between places within the states by means other than air transport can take many hours. Given these spatial characteristics, perhaps the most surprising feature of Australia’s political culture is what could be called ‘the Canberra reflex’. No problem is too local, no issue too miniscule that one could not find a pundit to argue that they would best be handled by the national government. [...]