Australian fiscal federalism and Aboriginal self-government: some issues of tactics and targets

Author/editor: Sanders, WG
Year published: 1995
Issue no.: 90


This paper documents, then analyses two encounters in the late 1980s and early 1990s between emerging ideas about Aboriginal self-government and Australian fiscal federalism, the system of intergovernmental financial transfers in Australia. One of these encounters involves local government financing and the other State/Territory financing. The paper asks whether Aboriginal organisations which have pursued ideas of self-government through these encounters have had a clear view of what they are attempting to achieve through which federal fiscal mechanisms and how they plan to achieve it. This question is addressed through a four part analysis focussing on grants commissions and grant conditions in the universe of Australian fiscal federalism; on tactics relating to specific purpose payments; on the lack of vigorous pursuit of an untied general purpose formula-based funding program for Aboriginal organisations; and on the potential inconsistency of advocating such a program for Aboriginal organisations while also advocating that conditions be placed on general purpose funding to the States and Territories. The paper concludes that there has been some lack of clarity among Aboriginal organisations pursuing ideas of self government through Australian fiscal federalism and that some significant rethinking of their tactics and targets is probably needed.

ISBN: 0 7315 1764 4

ISSN:1036 1774

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