The Environmental Implications of the Local-State Antinomy in Australia

Doctoral Thesis by Su Wild River

An antinomy is a contradiction between a principle and its opposite, where there is a compelling case for accepting both. This thesis adopts the antinomy of local-state government in Australia as its central conceptual theme, describing it with the following defensible, but contradictory principles that:

  • Australian local governments (LGs) are statutory agencies of Australia’s state governments, with no power or authority beyond that which is ascribed to them by the states (the outside-in principle); and  

  • Local governments in Australia are independent agencies whose authority and interests transcend their regulatory powers by nature of their attachment to their local area (the inside-out principle).

Findings show that representatives of Australian State Governments adhere to the outside-in principal, while LG officials act according to the inside-out principal. This fundamental misunderstanding about LG underpins many enduring problems between local and state governments in Australia. Misunderstandings between the spheres are most common in relation to:

  • LG responsiveness to the community,

  • Resource shortages,

  • The potential for partnerships between state governments, LGs and others,

  • LG efficiency and effectiveness,

  • LG leading the community,

  • The politics of LG,

  • The diversity between LGs,

  • The knowledge base of LG, and

  • The integration of policy that occurs in LG.

See the whole thesis in the ANU digital thesis library at:

The original research towards this thesis included 34 case studies of LG attempts to deliver beneficial environmental outcomes. The case studies are available through this link:

Some environmental risk studies undertaken in Queensland also contributed to this research. A link to them will be available shortly.