DECADES ago, the New England and North West were the driving forces behind a push to establish a new state.
The bid failed at a referendum.
The state of New England proposal included part of the coast, with the mighty Clarence River and Grafton earmarked to serve as as coastal port.
It was grand thinking back then, and some still believe it remains a worthy option.
There is also another line of thinking – that Australia, with its small population of 22 million over a huge continent, doesn’t need states at all.
Reducing our three tiers of government to two has been talked about for nearly as long as the New England state campaign.
Former Treasury deputy secretary Richard Murray brought the issue to the forefront again recently with a plan to redraw the nation’s political landscape by removing state governments.
Under the Murray plan, this region would become Macquarie-New England.
The region would stretch west from the Great Dividing Range across to the existing South Australian border.
Its other boundaries would be north to about Glen Innes and south to above Wollongong.
The cities of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong would be excluded.
The Murray plan is classified as a long-term proposal, with large regional councils taking over the administrative responsibilities of the state.
A bigger federal Parliament would take charge of education, health and all the other responsibilities deemed outside the scope of the new entities.
The driving force behind this controversial proposal is economic reform.
While it has attracted plenty of attention and stimulated debate, the Murray proposal will not happen.
Both the federal government and the Opposition have dismissed the plan, although federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the proposal had merit.
“If you were to start from scratch with the Australian Constitution, you’d write it very different to what we have,” Mr Burke said.
While ideas like the state of New England and the abolition of state governments have not resulted in change, it is important visionary proposals get air, because the system we have, although functional, is not perfect.
There may be a better way.