ACF COVID Promoted Federalism Research Grant Winners Announced

ACF COVID Promoted Federalism Research Grant Winners Announced
Wednesday 21 July 2021

We are very happy to anounce the two winners for the ACF COVID Promoted Federalism Research Grant for 2021. 

Addressing gender equality in the Australian federation's emergency responses through gender responsive budgeting approaches to fiscal policies and federal-state agreements. 

Julie Smith, Monica Costa, Naomi Hull, Alessandro Iellamo

In the past two decades, gender responsive budgeting (GRB) has emerged as a public financial management tool to improve the allocation of public resources towards gender equality policies. Australia has been a pioneer in this area at both the federal and State level, with GRB origins in the 1980s. This long experience indicates that if adequately implemented, GRB can advance essential gender equality and broader social goals and, at the same time, preserve or enhance key fiscal principles, namely the sustainability, efficiency and transparency of public policies.

During the COVID 19 emergency of 2021, public health responses and health service resource allocations included sudden and pervasive changes to maternity care and mother and child health services throughout Australia. Some such responses replicated in other countries, were described as ‘egregious breaches’ of women’s and children’s human rights.

Despite a national strategy on breastfeeding (“Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy” (ANBS)) being endorsed by all Australian governments in mid 2019, which included increasing breastfeeding support in Australian maternity care hospitals and better planning for emergency support of optimal infant and young child feeding, the governmental response to the epidemic saw the ANBS put on hold. Meanwhile, multiple NGOs called for improved planning in response to emergencies including bushfires, as well as public health emergencies and disasters.

The gap in research on federal-state financial systems was noted in a submission to the Australian government in 2019, and the ANBS was presented as a case study for future consideration (Stewart, Smith Guzman, Submission to Victorian Parliament Public Accounts and Estimates Committee Inquiry into Gender Responsive Budgeting”, 2019).

That submission noted the challenge for State-based GRB in Australia in linking with meaningfully to national priorities and expenditure partnerships through the fiscal federal grant processes, especially as the federal government has no explicit GRB strategy or processes in place;

“In the recent Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy (ANBS 2019), specific actions were identified and agreed by all Australian governments, but a coordinated process for securing funding commitments were not made to implement the Strategy. Policies on breastfeeding address the interaction of biology and cultural norms and may be considered as archetypal of issues for policy addressing gender inequality arising from women’s unique contributions through childbirth and care work. The ANBS 2019 specified actions for improved maternity services to better support women to establish breastfeeding (and health outcomes of women and children), and for government agencies to become accredited breastfeeding friendly workplaces. Gender responsive budgeting processes would ensure that the health of women and children, and gender equality are addressed by adequate fiscal policies and federal-state agreements on public contributions to these agreed actions.”

This online webinar and workshop event will reflect on how federal arrangements and crisis management systems impacted Australia’s management of maternity services and infant and young child feeding support during the COVID 19 emergency of 2020.


The Politics of Policy Coordination in India: A Case Study of National Vaccination Drives

Azad Bali

Governments across the world are in a race to vaccinate their populations. What challenges does this portend for federal systems where sub-national governments can compete to buy vaccines directly from a global market? The central question this paper asks is to what extent does affiliation of a sub-national government (either direct membership or being part of a coalition) to the national ruling party facilitate vaccine availability? The central hypothesis here is that state governments with strong ties to the national ruling party, will not actively procure vaccines from the market, but rather coordinate their vaccination strategy with that of the ruling party. The theoretical underpinnings of this hypothesis are in arguments advanced in the literatures on the politics of policy coordination, and in competitive fiscal federalism. This paper aims to interrogate this hypothesis using a case study of India where state governments a) procured vaccines directly from international and national markets; b) procured vaccines from the Central government; c) waited for the central government’s vaccination role out.


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