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Four of Australia's six State Governments are now conservative, but you'd hardly know it. In Queensland it's early days. But in New South Wales, Victoria & Western Australia many an observer would be hard-pressed to identify precisely the differences between those governments and their Labor predecessors.
Certainly there have been some improvements. State Budgets are now slightly less out of control and some green programs have been cut back, but that's about it.
What change there has been at the State level in education, health or infrastructure, for example, has been largely driven by Canberra.
Barry O'Farrell, Ted Baillieu & Colin Barnett would be entitled to be a little bit miffed by all the attention Campbell Newman is getting. Part of the reason for the focus on Newman is that, for the moment at least, he seems to be everything his colleagues are not - energetic, reform-minded and unafraid to take on the Gillard Government.
Lack of ability is not the problem in NSW, Victoria & Western Australia.
The idea that State Governments don't do anything any more - compared with the Federal Government - because of the inferior quality of State Ministers and MPs, is wrong. It's a myth perpetrated by journalists in the Canberra press gallery who never lift their gaze beyond the confines of the coffee shop in Parliament House on Capital Hill.
Intellectually, O'Farrell, Baillieu & Barnett are more than the equal of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Likewise their State Treasurers, Mike Baird, Kim Wells & Christian Porter, can easily match it against Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan. And the task of State Treasurers is harder. They can't run Budget deficits and increase taxes in the same way Wayne Swan does.
Many Federal Ministers look good because they don't have a real job. It's not hard being Federal Health Minister when you don't run any hospitals. And being Federal Education Minister is easy when you don't employ a single teacher in a single school.
Coalition State Governments don't suffer from a lack of ability. They suffer from a lack of ambition. Premiers and their Ministers have become accustomed to the notion that their only role is to make trains run slightly more punctually with carriages that are slightly less crowded. Eventually, they convince themselves that's their only responsibility.
Punctual public transport is important but there should be more to State Government. It's not as if the Premiers don't have ideas. New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell is passionate about public-sector reform.
Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu is an architect with a deep understanding of what makes cities great. Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett appreciates the influence Asia will have on Australia probably better than any politician in the country.
The Coalition Premiers should stop implementing Prime Minister Julia Gillard's agenda and start implementing their own.
Instead of complaining about the Carbon Tax, they can do something about it and mount a High Court challenge.
Next, they should put a halt to the agenda run by big business and the Federal Government to "harmonise" laws across the country. In these pages yesterday, Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong waxed lyrical about how the laws on everything from trustee companies to payroll tax have been harmonised in the name of a national seamless economy.
Her aim is a seamless economy with no diversity and no competition between the States. Laws are seldom harmonised to reduce regulation.
For proof, look no further than the proposed national Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) standards.
A report to the Victorian Government, released this week, analysed 20 major differences between Victoria's existing laws and the proposed law, and 17 of those differences impose more bureaucracy & red tape.
Victoria is recognised as having the country's best Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) regime. There's no reason for Victoria to be in the new national scheme - but for some reason Premier Baillieu is still deciding whether to participate or not. He should have said long ago he'd never be a part of it.
Big business, understandably, wants a single set of laws across State boundaries. But big business can more easily afford the extra burden of regulation that results from harmonisation than can smaller enterprises.
Most businesses don't operate across States. The Premiers should take what big business says with a grain of salt anyway. After all, it was big business that said the Carbon Tax was a good idea.
When Premiers Barry O'Farrell, Ted Baillieu & Colin Barnett see Prime Minister Julia Gillard this morning they can try saying "no" to her for a change.
Originally published in the Australian Financial Review, 13 April, 2012,
John Roskam is the Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).