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Canberra – Democracy Denied

By 14 August 2014 19

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Democracy is certainly not perfect, and the ACT is no exception.

In 2016 the ACT Legislative Assembly will increase its members from 17 to 25; there is some merit to this proposition. For its population, the ACT currently has the lowest level of democratic representation in Australia (both at the federal and territory levels). An increase to 25 Members of the Legislative Assembly would give the ACT a ratio of 8.3 representatives per 100,000 citizens.

This ratio is still far more disproportionate than any other jurisdiction in Australia. Victoria would be the next least represented jurisdiction with 14.4 members per 100,000 citizens. The highest rate of representation in Australia is currently Tasmania who has to endure 66 representatives per 100,000 citizens.

With this change comes a gutless miscarriage of democracy in the form of a handshake between the two major parties. There will be an increase from 3 to 5 electorates. This means that to be elected, a candidate must reach a quota of 16.7%. This represents one of the highest quotas in Australia in order to be elected at the state level. The higher quota means that the two parties increase their stranglehold on the control of the Legislative Assembly which will reduce the capacity for the assembly to represent the citizens of the ACT with diversity, independent thought, and imagination.

The Assembly decided against a seven member electorate, one of which we currently have, which attracts a quota of 12.5%, or a 9 member electorate which would attract a quota of 10%. In doing so the major parties have betrayed the very ideals of democracy by which they profess to champion.

So often do we hear politicians soapboxing for a greater diversity in Australian politics in regards to gender, ethnicity, education, etc. But if our politicians really believed in the great diversity of Australian culture being represented by the institutions of democracy it would open the doors of democracy, not close them.

We live in a time where two political parties endorse conformists who stand behind banners, regardless of what those banners say, and expect us to call it democracy. We live in a time where billionaires not only stymie but determine national policy. We must remember that Gillard’s deal with the miners, and the Australian Christian Lobby, was just as much a kick in the face to Australian citizenry as Abbott’s determination to consign students to a lifetime of debt.

Why are we losing our academics, our scientists, our aboriginal languages, and our capacity to cultivate humanistic and imaginative citizens through a free liberal arts education? Why are our Governments selling our assets to multinational corporations instead of maintaining revenue for the public? Why are our gas prices going to increase threefold over the next few years just because of a multinational corporate handshake?

And what gives the Labor/Liberal alliance the inhumane arrogance to deny Australian citizens the right to marry or medicinal marijuana or the right to end their lives voluntarily, peacefully, and painlessly?

But, of course, the major parties, in their grubby pact, run a risk. They run the risk that the balance of power will be determined by a formidable, libertarian and progressive political force, steeled by the conviction to break the power of their alliance. In 2016 that risk will be a reality. I respect and admire many politicians from both sides of politics, but they belong to a machine to which I could not attach myself as one of its cogs. I am waiting for at least some of them to leave the safety of their confines, think for themselves, question authority, and act for the people.

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19 Responses to Canberra – Democracy Denied
#1
Matt_Watts10:35 am, 14 Aug 14

a) Doesn’t this post rely on the presumption that more politicians = better governance?
b) Having a quota of 16.7% is surely better for minor parties than a “one member per electorate” system which would rely on 50% +1 of the two party preferred for each seat…

#2
Masquara10:43 am, 14 Aug 14

Well for a start, Steven, please distinguish when you’re talkin’ local, you tend to muss up your tracts. There’s no point banging on about Aboriginal language being lost in the ACT, other than as a massive regret. There is not one speaker of any of the local languages left. Can’t really see how additional MLAs is going to help Aboriginal languages!

#3
John Hargreaves Ex M1:45 pm, 14 Aug 14

May I respectfully remind you Steven, that there has only been one majority government in the ACT since self government. The first debacle ridden Assembly was made up of a bunch of loonies form weird places and was unstable to say the least. But it was democratic… you think… the D’Hondt system of one electorate across Canberra.

In my time 1998-2012, I saw how the crossbench held the governments of the day to ransom. Indeed, you could say that the one Greens Party representative has a disproportionate power gained through a 12.5% quota. I had to get 16.5% each time I went before the electorate.

Also remember that the ACT community in toto did not vote for a Greens government6 and in fact in 1998 did not vote for Michael Moore to keep the Carnell Liberals in power.

one has a choice. The Party of the most seats or government by blackmail. I have seen both.

The notion that 5×5 will be a Labor Govt forever is propaganda from parties who have never governed in their own right because the community has never trusted them enough.

In fact the Liberals have not for many decades in the ACT or federally, governed in their own right – they have always had a coalition of sorts going. Labor has only had one in the ACT – the current one.

#4
Grail2:11 pm, 14 Aug 14

The Abbott Government was voted in because the people trusted them more than Labor? Is that really what you’re saying John?

#5
watto234:25 pm, 14 Aug 14

Firstly the previous Tasmanian govt which is also a 5×5 hare clarke system, had 11 Lab, 10 Lib and 4 Grn. So its always possible for someone other than the 2 majors to gain the balance of power.

The reason they do not is the belief that your vote will always go to Lab or lib so why bother. I vote below the line and last election had the loonies (those with any kind of anti-this or extremist views) last followed by the major parties. If more people voted minor parties more minor parties would get seats. In fact I’d argue its the only way to state your displeasure with the current two parties.

So while under the new system its likely there will be at least 10 lib and 10 lab members, that last quota can often go to someone else. Its up to the citizens to understand this and vote accordingly.

Finally a single 25 member electorate will probably help major parties more so, because who is going to vote under the line in any such system! Could easily be 200+ candidates

#6
John Hargreaves Ex M5:03 pm, 14 Aug 14

Grail said :

The Abbott Government was voted in because the people trusted them more than Labor? Is that really what you’re saying John?

They were not voted in Labor was voted out. It is an old adage. Governments lose, Oppositions don’t win. In Any event, there are so many broken promises and draconian stuff, I have never seen the like of it.

But we’re talking about the ACT Assembly…. different issue

#7
John Hargreaves Ex M5:04 pm, 14 Aug 14

watto23 said :

Firstly the previous Tasmanian govt which is also a 5×5 hare clarke system, had 11 Lab, 10 Lib and 4 Grn. So its always possible for someone other than the 2 majors to gain the balance of power.

The reason they do not is the belief that your vote will always go to Lab or lib so why bother. I vote below the line and last election had the loonies (those with any kind of anti-this or extremist views) last followed by the major parties. If more people voted minor parties more minor parties would get seats. In fact I’d argue its the only way to state your displeasure with the current two parties.

So while under the new system its likely there will be at least 10 lib and 10 lab members, that last quota can often go to someone else. Its up to the citizens to understand this and vote accordingly.

Finally a single 25 member electorate will probably help major parties more so, because who is going to vote under the line in any such system! Could easily be 200+ candidates

All true. but then an independent single issue entity will hold the “government” to ransom. as is always the case.

#8
magiccar96:13 am, 15 Aug 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

May I respectfully remind you Steven, that there has only been one majority government in the ACT since self government. The first debacle ridden Assembly was made up of a bunch of loonies form weird places and was unstable to say the least. But it was democratic… you think… the D’Hondt system of one electorate across Canberra.

In my time 1998-2012, I saw how the crossbench held the governments of the day to ransom. Indeed, you could say that the one Greens Party representative has a disproportionate power gained through a 12.5% quota. I had to get 16.5% each time I went before the electorate.

Also remember that the ACT community in toto did not vote for a Greens government6 and in fact in 1998 did not vote for Michael Moore to keep the Carnell Liberals in power.

one has a choice. The Party of the most seats or government by blackmail. I have seen both.

The notion that 5×5 will be a Labor Govt forever is propaganda from parties who have never governed in their own right because the community has never trusted them enough.

In fact the Liberals have not for many decades in the ACT or federally, governed in their own right – they have always had a coalition of sorts going. Labor has only had one in the ACT – the current one.

So tell me John, what is the current ACT Government? I do believe our current Government is being held to ransom by the minor party to hold power… no?

Can I also point out that, in previous posts here, you commented on how you didn’t tolerate personal attacks, yet in your comment above you refer to people as “a bunch of loonies” – a little hypocritical don’t you think?

#9
Leon2:14 pm, 15 Aug 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

In my time 1998-2012, I saw how the crossbench held the governments of the day to ransom

The crossbench can only “hold the government of the day to ransom” if the opposition of the day supports them.

Are you saying that Canberra’s opposition parties are so mindless that they alway vote with the crossbench?

#10
Steven Bailey12:04 am, 16 Aug 14

Masquara said :

Well for a start, Steven, please distinguish when you’re talkin’ local, you tend to muss up your tracts. There’s no point banging on about Aboriginal language being lost in the ACT, other than as a massive regret. There is not one speaker of any of the local languages left. Can’t really see how additional MLAs is going to help Aboriginal languages!

I’m not confusing the tiers of Government. I’m just talking about them concurrently. I’m sorry you found that complicated to understand.

The point should be fairly clear that I support the teaching of Australia’s first languages.

The following may be of interest to you:

We have speakers of the Walgalu language living, eating and breathing. They just don’t make a big deal about it.

Along the spine great dividing range, from Orbost (VIC) to Katoomba (NSW) which we know as “Guumaal”,there are two languages spoken, Walgalu and Gundangara.

Walgalu is spoken from for the Orbost area through to the northern end of Weereewaa.

#11
Steven Bailey12:20 am, 16 Aug 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

May I respectfully remind you Steven, that there has only been one majority government in the ACT since self government. The first debacle ridden Assembly was made up of a bunch of loonies form weird places and was unstable to say the least. But it was democratic… you think… the D’Hondt system of one electorate across Canberra.

In my time 1998-2012, I saw how the crossbench held the governments of the day to ransom. Indeed, you could say that the one Greens Party representative has a disproportionate power gained through a 12.5% quota. I had to get 16.5% each time I went before the electorate.

Also remember that the ACT community in toto did not vote for a Greens government6 and in fact in 1998 did not vote for Michael Moore to keep the Carnell Liberals in power.

one has a choice. The Party of the most seats or government by blackmail. I have seen both.

The notion that 5×5 will be a Labor Govt forever is propaganda from parties who have never governed in their own right because the community has never trusted them enough.

In fact the Liberals have not for many decades in the ACT or federally, governed in their own right – they have always had a coalition of sorts going. Labor has only had one in the ACT – the current one.

All good points John – thanks!

Yeah, cheers John. People rarely consider that the Liberal Party, at the federal level, has never really stood on its own two feet without the Nats – a most deceptive coalition of political forces.

Though I would make the point that most Governments in Europe are formed by coalitions – Japan would be another example. I reject the argument that people should keep voting for the major parties because of stability. I think many Monarchs have made the same argument.

And yes! There certainly were loonies (you would know more about that than me). Who was that guy who would sleep in the Assembly? I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories over the years.

In 2016, I won’t be leading a team of loonies. They will be leading intelligent, responsible and worldly candidates into the Assembly.

#12
Steven Bailey12:25 am, 16 Aug 14

Matt_Watts said :

a) Doesn’t this post rely on the presumption that more politicians = better governance?
b) Having a quota of 16.7% is surely better for minor parties than a “one member per electorate” system which would rely on 50% +1 of the two party preferred for each seat…

a) No. The post doesn’t rely on that point. I’m not an advocate for bigger or smaller government.

b) Yes. I suppose an unfair situation can always be made more unfair.

#13
Steven Bailey12:29 am, 16 Aug 14

watto23 said :

Firstly the previous Tasmanian govt which is also a 5×5 hare clarke system, had 11 Lab, 10 Lib and 4 Grn. So its always possible for someone other than the 2 majors to gain the balance of power.

The reason they do not is the belief that your vote will always go to Lab or lib so why bother. I vote below the line and last election had the loonies (those with any kind of anti-this or extremist views) last followed by the major parties. If more people voted minor parties more minor parties would get seats. In fact I’d argue its the only way to state your displeasure with the current two parties.

So while under the new system its likely there will be at least 10 lib and 10 lab members, that last quota can often go to someone else. Its up to the citizens to understand this and vote accordingly.

Finally a single 25 member electorate will probably help major parties more so, because who is going to vote under the line in any such system! Could easily be 200+ candidates

All good point Watto! I agree. I just think the new system could be more democratic. I’m not sure about your last point though – it would certainly be interesting to see!

Cheers, mate.

#14
JC8:01 am, 16 Aug 14

Grail said :

The Abbott Government was voted in because the people trusted them more than Labor? Is that really what you’re saying John?

They THOUGHT they could trust them. Look what has happened! Trust lost on day 1.

#15
Matt Watts9:57 am, 16 Aug 14

Steven Bailey said :

Matt_Watts said :

a) Doesn’t this post rely on the presumption that more politicians = better governance?
b) Having a quota of 16.7% is surely better for minor parties than a “one member per electorate” system which would rely on 50% +1 of the two party preferred for each seat…

a) No. The post doesn’t rely on that point. I’m not an advocate for bigger or smaller government.

b) Yes. I suppose an unfair situation can always be made more unfair.

In that case, I will ignore your comments about disproportionate representation. Cheers

#16
TFarquahar4:53 am, 19 Aug 14

Steven Bailey said :

Masquara said :

Well for a start, Steven, please distinguish when you’re talkin’ local, you tend to muss up your tracts. There’s no point banging on about Aboriginal language being lost in the ACT, other than as a massive regret. There is not one speaker of any of the local languages left. Can’t really see how additional MLAs is going to help Aboriginal languages!

I’m not confusing the tiers of Government. I’m just talking about them concurrently. I’m sorry you found that complicated to understand.

The point should be fairly clear that I support the teaching of Australia’s first languages.

The following may be of interest to you:

We have speakers of the Walgalu language living, eating and breathing. They just don’t make a big deal about it.

Along the spine great dividing range, from Orbost (VIC) to Katoomba (NSW) which we know as “Guumaal”,there are two languages spoken, Walgalu and Gundangara.

Walgalu is spoken from for the Orbost area through to the northern end of Weereewaa.

The day ACT schools start teaching my children some obscure indigenous language I will win 1 million dollars with the bookies. I have placed a bet of 10 cents on this occurring some time in the next 20 years.

Steven, ACT voters are a more progressive lot than the majority of Australia with perhaps the exception of certain inner city seats in other capitals. I suspect though that your level of progressive politics may even be a bridge too far to have you voted in here.

Good luck champ I hope you do get voted in because I will win another million dollars on a 10 cent bet!

#17
HenryBG11:41 am, 20 Aug 14

I was just reading this today…and it made me think:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7720404

Munich is a City of 1.4 million, and they run it with a City Council of 33,000 staff.

Canberra, with 400,000 has over 20,000 staff.

Canberra ratepayers are clearly far more generous than the ratepayers of Munich.

#18
dungfungus12:36 pm, 20 Aug 14

HenryBG said :

I was just reading this today…and it made me think:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7720404

Munich is a City of 1.4 million, and they run it with a City Council of 33,000 staff.

Canberra, with 400,000 has over 20,000 staff.

Canberra ratepayers are clearly far more generous than the ratepayers of Munich.

Good point HBG but someone is sure to write in and state that Munich’s health, education, legal, police departments etc. are run by the federal government wheras the ACT has to have its own structures and this needs more public servants to run them.
I would prefer to see NSW take over all the those functions in the ACT. It would be much more cost effective and efficient. We are supposed to be in an era of regional cooperation aren’t we?
The current ACT legislative assembly then would not have to be expanded and we would not need ministers. A council would suffice.

#19
rosscoact1:07 pm, 20 Aug 14

HenryBG said :

I was just reading this today…and it made me think:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7720404

Munich is a City of 1.4 million, and they run it with a City Council of 33,000 staff.

Canberra, with 400,000 has over 20,000 staff.

Canberra ratepayers are clearly far more generous than the ratepayers of Munich.

the ACT and NSW have about the same number of public sector staff per head of population at approximately one per 16 which I think is pretty close to the rest of Australia. Not sure about Germany though.

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