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The Australian National University

Constitutional Incongruence: Explaining the Failure of the Council of the Australian Federation

Shipra Chordia and Andrew Lynch (2015) 43 (3)

The establishment and rise of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is, on balance, a story of the successful development of an executive-based institution for co-operative governance in the Australian federal system. By contrast, the Council of the Australian Federation (CAF), created in 2006 as a forum for interstate co-operation and policy development, has been far less effective. This article explores the reasons behind CAF’s difficulties after a very short-lived initial impact. Integral to this account is the significance of Canadian experience of horizontal intergovernmental relations, which directly inspired the Australian Premiers to found CAF. The numerous indications of political congruence — some temporary, others systemic — between the Canadian and Australian settings obscured a deeper constitutional incongruence between the two jurisdictions and this is fundamental to appreciating CAF’s failure as a transplant. CAF’s ability to operate effectively as a significant institution was inevitably constrained by the parameters of the Australian federal system that its establishment was, in many ways, seeking to transcend.

Vol 43, Issue 3, 2015

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