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Do We Really Need a 6th Beatle?

By 30 June 2014 9

legislative-assembly

If you ask the chattering classes whether we need a 6th minister, a lot of them will say that we don’t. This is because they don’t know what ministers actually do in the Legislative Assembly and they don’t like politicians anyway.
A lot of people don’t know why the ACT actually needs a parliament at all.

Uniquely, the ACT has a dual jurisdictional responsibility in that we require our Assembly to look after “council” and “state” type functions as well. The “state” functions predominantly are health, education, law and order, planning and transport. Municipal or “council” functions are mostly those delivered by TAMS, what they call roads, rates and rubbish.

The way money comes our way is through our taxes and charges and federal Government payments, either GST or grants. The feds give this money to the states either because they have to (GST) or in exchange for some outcomes in policies of their own, such as health, education etc. Much of this is driven by responsibilities outlined in the Constitution but this doesn’t affect the ACT much (nor the NT) but we get treated the same.

It has been argued that the ACT should just be a “council”. This would put us in the same boat as Queanbeyan which collects municipal rates and depends on the NSW state government for administration of health, education and police among other state type functions like planning. No thanks!

The ministers in the ACT Legislative Assembly have a seat in the negotiations to achieve a fair share of federal funding and compete often with their, often more powerful, counterparts from the states.

If the ACT is to get a fair share, we need to be in the tent and at the table. To be in this game, we need to have policies which are ACT specific and which can be argued on the national stage. The days of entitlement are over, somebody said recently. Well, in terms of financial share, that age disappeared in 1989. For example, we inherited an aging road asset, with no federal funding to go with it.

Of course I have only scratched the surface here and can go on and on. But back to why we need a 6th Beatle. The Legislative Assembly must have ministers at the table to argue our case. In the states there are a large number of ministers, often from two houses of parliament yet the Government in the ACT is gleaned from a slim majority of members in the Chamber. Of course in the current Assembly Labor has 8 and with the single vote from Mr Rattenbury, the government benches are theirs.

There are currently 5 ministers and this has been the case since 1989. The workload is immense. Most ministers here carry 5 to 6 portfolios or more. It is rare in the states that a minister has more than one and often has an assistant minister and/or a parliamentary secretary to assist.

A 6th minister will lighten but not eliminate the huge workload carried by ministers. The sad part is that the public and media expect our ministers to be 100% aware of every facet of each portfolio, to be answer all questions in incredible detail instantly and all the time. It is a deadly demand to put on anyone.

Mick Gentleman will add a dimension to the Cabinet which is gleaned from his experience in the public sector, his experience in the union movement and his experience in the private sector. Unlike the Liberals, where the First Minister appoints whoever he or she feels like, Labor ministers are elected by their colleagues in the Caucus. In other words, they must glean the support of their colleagues to be able to contest such a position. Sure, bargaining goes on but it does in any field of endeavour. The difference is that every caucus member has the right to nominate and be judged. Not so in the Libs.

You choose which method you prefer.

A minister can’t keep everyone happy all the time and must make judgments within a policy framework. It takes hard work, courage and dedication and there is a price to pay socially and in health. Why anyone would want to put themselves through this wringer I don’t know.

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9 Responses to Do We Really Need a 6th Beatle?
#1
bd849:25 am, 30 Jun 14

The posts you write are wayyyyyyy too long. People are not going to read them if you try and write a thesis on the subject.

Anyway, my response after reading 1.5 paragraphs of your post is, I can accept an additional minister, hopefully should reduce the number of ministers that need to take on multiple large portfolios an pay those areas of government more attention.

I think however it should also make way for levels of ministers with pay accordingly should they be responsible for minor things like the arts etc compared to Health, treasurer etc.

#2
VYBerlinaV8_is_back11:14 am, 30 Jun 14

“… they don’t like politicians anyway.”

“Unlike the Liberals, where the First Minister appoints whoever he or she feels like, Labor ministers are elected by their colleagues in the Caucus. In other words, they must glean the support of their colleagues to be able to contest such a position. Sure, bargaining goes on but it does in any field of endeavour. The difference is that every caucus member has the right to nominate and be judged. Not so in the Libs. “

People are sick of political bickering, which is why they don’t like politicians. This is a good example.

#3
rosscoact11:51 am, 30 Jun 14

Good post John. Funnily enough the most trenchant critics of self-government never seem to be able to put up a viable alternative where the taxpayer has representation. Nobody in their right mind would want NSW running any of our state government services, particularly when there’s no votes in it for them.

Yet the alternative seems to be a pining for the good old days when an administrator decided what is best for the ACT with little or no input from the citizens. The Assembly isn’t perfect but it’s a damn sight better than taxation without representation.

#4
cmdwedge11:56 am, 30 Jun 14

You are actually the reason I joined the Liberals as a paying member, Mr Hargreaves. No exaggeration.

You posit that there really are two sets of Ministers. Those that are in charge of state functions and those that are in charge of council functions. If it is so that we need “to be in the tent and at the table” then why not give a state role to each of the five Ministers, and dole our the council roles fairly too?

Nonsense about who chooses Ministers is just stupid.

Here’s one for you.

One Party allows their members to cross the floor without fear of reprisals. One automatically EJECTS YOU FROM THE PARTY.

Which one is fairer? Which one allows their members to represent their constituents rather than their Party decisions, made in backroom deals between factions?

#5
John Hargreaves Ex M1:18 pm, 30 Jun 14

cmdwedge said :

You are actually the reason I joined the Liberals as a paying member, Mr Hargreaves. No exaggeration.

You posit that there really are two sets of Ministers. Those that are in charge of state functions and those that are in charge of council functions. If it is so that we need “to be in the tent and at the table” then why not give a state role to each of the five Ministers, and dole our the council roles fairly too?

Nonsense about who chooses Ministers is just stupid.

Here’s one for you.

One Party allows their members to cross the floor without fear of reprisals. One automatically EJECTS YOU FROM THE PARTY.

Which one is fairer? Which one allows their members to represent their constituents rather than their Party decisions, made in backroom deals between factions?

You seem to have misunderstood the point I made about dual responsibilities. The Assembly has uniquely two parts of our three tiers of government. One Assembly = a NSW government PLUS a shire council. And all ministers do share those responsibilities. Isn’t ignorance bliss.

I made the point about who chooses the talent by way of comparison and invite people to choose.

FYI, I crossed the floor on an abortion issue and didn’t get tossed out of the ALP. Quite the opposite.

#6
gooterz9:37 pm, 30 Jun 14

How many extra light rails do we get with another minister?

Do we really need more minsters or can we get away with “assistant minister and/or a parliamentary secretary”?

The other difference is that 7.439 million people live in NSW vs 0.384 million in the ACT.

Many of the NSW Ministers are ministers for a discrete area of NSW, or services with 20x the patronage. Most of them have 5-6 roles too.

#7
miz10:55 pm, 30 Jun 14

Anyone who has lived and worked in NSW will tell you that they pay lower rates, yet get far better services than Canberrans do. You have to ask yourself why. No one denies that current MLAs work hard, but the model under which they work is flawed. We are too small for a Westminster system. Yes, of course the ACT has to be in the same tent as the States, for State level responsibilities. But Canberrans would be far better served in every way if State level and local level responsibilities were divided so the neglect of local services does not continue its lengthy downward spiral since self-government. If we had a dedicated ‘local council’ style administration for local services we would simultaneously get better services, with better value for money, with the advantage that local politicians would have better work life balance. We would also save heaps as we would not need more MLAs or Ministers. Worth thinking about, surely.

#8
Mysteryman8:54 am, 01 Jul 14

miz said :

Anyone who has lived and worked in NSW will tell you that they pay lower rates, yet get far better services than Canberrans do. You have to ask yourself why.

No one denies that current MLAs work hard, but the model under which they work is flawed. We are too small for a Westminster system. Yes, of course the ACT has to be in the same tent as the States, for State level responsibilities. But Canberrans would be far better served in every way if State level and local level responsibilities were divided so the neglect of local services does not continue its lengthy downward spiral since self-government. If we had a dedicated ‘local council’ style administration for local services we would simultaneously get better services, with better value for money, with the advantage that local politicians would have better work life balance. We would also save heaps as we would not need more MLAs or Ministers. Worth thinking about, surely.

I agree. Many MLAs are far too busy focussing on the state level responsibilities which don’t really need to attention.

#9
John Hargreaves Ex M2:27 pm, 03 Jul 14

miz said :

Anyone who has lived and worked in NSW will tell you that they pay lower rates, yet get far better services than Canberrans do. You have to ask yourself why.

No one denies that current MLAs work hard, but the model under which they work is flawed. We are too small for a Westminster system. Yes, of course the ACT has to be in the same tent as the States, for State level responsibilities. But Canberrans would be far better served in every way if State level and local level responsibilities were divided so the neglect of local services does not continue its lengthy downward spiral since self-government. If we had a dedicated ‘local council’ style administration for local services we would simultaneously get better services, with better value for money, with the advantage that local politicians would have better work life balance. We would also save heaps as we would not need more MLAs or Ministers. Worth thinking about, surely.

Very good points. Perhaps a specific Local Government Act for the ACT, giving financial independence for “Council” type services?

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