CF One of the complaints of the States is that the Commonwealth
is becoming increasingly powerful, more powerful - you know it had special
powers in the war it took away from the States. So would you believe
in a smaller government, would you support State Government as opposed
to the large Commonwealth Government?
MARGETTS: It's not necessarily been
the case that it's been all in one direction if you think that environmental
issues and planning issues have become much more important to communities.
You've seen Commonwealth Governments and certainly conservative Commonwealth
Governments devolving those powers, hand-balling most of those decisions
to the States simply because environment isn't in the Constitution.
They just lump it all under a land management element of the Constitution
so issues of human rights, become State rights, issues of environment
become land management issues and so on. And you've seen conservative
governments hand-balling that more and more and taking no responsibility
- getting out of those issues. Actually dismantling their own departments,
dismantling their own legislative structures in many ways. An example
I can use in Western Australia [is] where the Commonwealth Government
claimed that the new environmental laws were going to give better protection
to issues of national and international importance. Yet the State has
just put through proposals to increase the salt works at Shark Bay.
And what's happening? Nothing ...
CF How do you feel, then, about the Commonwealth in a sense devolving
responsibility to an international arbiter because of its signing international
treaties. The Commonwealth can bring in someone, an international representative,
like what's happening in Darwin now?
MARGETTS: You can separate out the
human rights issues with international courts of justice and so on and
Aboriginal issues where similar sorts of things are happening. The International
Labour Organisation is being sought for opinions in relation to issues
of human rights in the workplace and a number of other areas where the
Commonwealth is expressing outrage and other people are expressing outrage.
Yet the thing that's having the most impact on us is the World Trade
Organisation, and there doesn't seem to be any outrage that you have
this hugely powerful body which is much more powerful than the United
Nations ever was or probably ever will be. And they have an enormous
amount of sway. They don't have to go through proper processes like
the United Nations. Australia can be made to change the way they go
about things. I just find it extraordinary that there is this outrage
or pretend outrage if you like in relation to treaties and some of them
are fairly basic, fairly minimal what we've actually signed. But when
it comes to one of the biggest treaties in recent times like the Uruguay
Round of GATT and the set up of the World Trade Organisation there seems
to be no real objection by those political groups.
[Battye Library, OH3013]