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Do we really want more ACT politicians?

By 13 March 2014 26

ACT legislative assembly - Image from ABC.net.au
You’ll probably have heard about the idea to increase the size of the ACT Assembly from 17 to 25 MLAs (in five electorates), with an outside chance of 35 MLAs (from seven electorates) somewhere in the distant future. There’s also a proposal to increase all their salaries now.

The snouts are well and truly in the trough, and now they all want a bigger trough with more swill.

Labor supports it because it will almost certainly entrench their power forever, as if they haven’t already dug in for the long term. Liberal supports it because they foolishly believe they have an outside chance at grabbing government when the ballot paper suddenly expands to include a whole lot of new names that aren’t already established through Labor’s born-to-rule place on the front pages of the Canberra Times. The Green (there’s only one) says his party will do well whatever.

Is that what we really want? More politicians?

We can play ‘pretend’ with the results of the last ACT election. It’s a flawed game for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the likely change to electorate boundaries and size, but it can give us an idea of voting intentions.

If we take the 25 MLAs and assume we have the same three electorates with more pollies in each, we could have ended up with the following (primary vote and party affiliation in brackets):

Brindabella (8 seats)
1. Zed SESELJA (18566) (Lib)
2. Joy BURCH (9031) (ALP)
3. Andrew WALL (2477) (Lib)
4. Brendan SMYTH (3954) (Lib)
5. Mick GENTLEMAN (5105) (ALP)
6. Amanda BRESNAN (3515) (Grn)
7. Nicole LAWDER (2086) (Lib)
8. Rebecca CODY (3561) (ALP)

Ginninderra (8 seats)
1. Alistair COE (10017) (Lib)
2. Vicki DUNNE (5167) (Lib)
3. Mary PORTER (9423) (ALP)
4. Chris BOURKE (5048) (ALP)
5. Yvette BERRY (4917) (ALP)
6. Meredith HUNTER (4462) (Grn)
7. Chic HENRY (4360) (Motorists)
8. Glen McCREA (4153) (ALP)

Molonglo (9 seats)
1. Katy GALLAGHER (23996) (ALP)
2. Jeremy HANSON (10235) (Lib)
3. Andrew BARR (3880) (ALP)
4. Simon CORBELL (1909) (ALP)
5. Shane RATTENBURY (4966) (Grn)
6. Giulia JONES (5754) (Lib)
7. Steve DOSZPOT (5245) (Lib)
8. Caroline LE COUTEUR (4531) (Grn)
9. Meegan FITZHARRIS (2626) (ALP)

Overall result
Labor: 11 seats
Liberal: 9 seats
Green: 4 seats (Labor aligned)
Motorists: 1 seat (Liberal aligned)

The more things change, and the more it costs to change them, the more they stay the same.

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26 Responses to Do we really want more ACT politicians?
#1
bundah3:25 pm, 13 Mar 14

Shit don’t we already have enough buffoons in there….

#2
bikhet3:58 pm, 13 Mar 14

I might support the increase if they’d use the additional members to better manage the existing bureaucracy. This is unlikely. It’s more likely that they’ll use the time freed up to pursue their own, or their party’s, agenda. As a result I’d have to say that I’m not in favour.

On the analysis of the outcome provided by the OP the additional numbers wouldn’t make a great deal of difference to the division of power. It would still be Labor forming the government with the support of the Greens.

Whatever the outcome it terms of numbers, I’m opposed to any increase in their salaries or allowances.

#3
gazket4:41 pm, 13 Mar 14

They have other people that were elected, why do they only have 4 ministers . What do the other elected members with out a portfolio do ? Obvious No Waste by 2010 was just a slogan.

Labour Greens are already increasing our power bills just for idealism. Running up massive debts for us to pay when they will all leave Canberra when they retire or get voted out just like their federal Labour Greens members who abandoned their parties when they lost the Federal election.

#4
HiddenDragon5:49 pm, 13 Mar 14

bikhet said :

I might support the increase if they’d use the additional members to better manage the existing bureaucracy. This is unlikely. It’s more likely that they’ll use the time freed up to pursue their own, or their party’s, agenda. As a result I’d have to say that I’m not in favour.

On the analysis of the outcome provided by the OP the additional numbers wouldn’t make a great deal of difference to the division of power. It would still be Labor forming the government with the support of the Greens.

Whatever the outcome it terms of numbers, I’m opposed to any increase in their salaries or allowances.

That sums it up very nicely, particularly the first sentence – if there’s not going to be more democractic supervision of the large local bureaucracy, it just means more elected chair-warmers competing for photo opportunities and whiling away their time on humdrum backbench acitivities, and generally making a nuisance of themselves by looking for things to regulate and spend other people’s money on.

The Liberals got sucked in on the move from three to four year terms, so it’s a little (but not much) suprising they’ve fallen for this one – would have been a great opportunity to make a stand on an issue which would have resontated with many Canberra voter/taxpayers.

#5
c_c™6:11 pm, 13 Mar 14

So…

People complain when government doesn’t do something. People complain when government does do something.
People complain when government is too fast. People complain when government is too slow.
People complain when there’s more politicians or politicians get paid more. People complain when politicians don’t work fast enough or the politicians we get are eclipsed in talent and skill by private sector leaders.
People complain about the reps they elect, when people vote based on self interest and simplistic campaigns rather than merit and a full understanding of policies.

Electorate needs to get smarter and more informed.
In the ACT, we need to have enough reps to fulfil the roles of a Parliament that combines two ordinary levels of representation.
We need to pay them enough, but should make it less about perks and more about performance pay.

#6
Mysteryman6:25 pm, 13 Mar 14

Just get rid of Andrew Barr and I’ll be happy. What a chump.

#7
switch6:31 pm, 13 Mar 14

HiddenDragon said :

The Liberals got sucked in on the move from three to four year terms, so it’s a little (but not much) suprising they’ve fallen for this one – would have been a great opportunity to make a stand on an issue which would have resontated with many Canberra voter/taxpayers.

When do politicians of any sort ever vote to spend less on themselves?

#8
dungfungus6:32 pm, 13 Mar 14

bundah said :

Shit don’t we already have enough buffoons in there….

If we don’t have enough buffoons to draft and enact policies, the ACT public service bureaucracies and directorates will do it for us on the run.
The buffoons are cheaper by far.

#9
jkbbcc8:02 pm, 13 Mar 14

Here is a very rushed list of the amount of representation in other Australian State Legislative Assemblies:
NSW : 1 MLA per 79,000 population.
VIC: 1 per 64,500.
QLD: 1 per 51,800.
WA: 1 per 146,000.

ACT (current 17 MLA’s): 1 per 22,329
ACT (with 25 MLA’s): 1 per 15,184
ACT (with 35 MLA’s): 1 per 10,845

Do we really need representation levels four or five times greater than NSW or Victoria or even 10 times greater than WA?

#10
c_c™8:41 pm, 13 Mar 14

jkbbcc, does that factor in local councils in States?

#11
Diggety10:44 pm, 13 Mar 14

I would prefer less governance.

I’d be happy with 1000 pollies, as long as they’re there to rip up laws, not create more.

#12
Garfield9:34 am, 14 Mar 14

jkbbcc said :

Here is a very rushed list of the amount of representation in other Australian State Legislative Assemblies:
NSW : 1 MLA per 79,000 population.
VIC: 1 per 64,500.
QLD: 1 per 51,800.
WA: 1 per 146,000.

ACT (current 17 MLA’s): 1 per 22,329
ACT (with 25 MLA’s): 1 per 15,184
ACT (with 35 MLA’s): 1 per 10,845

Do we really need representation levels four or five times greater than NSW or Victoria or even 10 times greater than WA?

If you have a look at the tables on page 35 of the report by the expert reference panel into the size of the ACT Assembly you will see that we currently have 1 state/local politician for every 15129 enrolled voters. The state with the next lowest representation is Victoria with 1 for every 4769 voters. You have to keep in mind that the ACT Assembly is responsible for both state and local government issues. Of course what the reference panel didn’t include was the fact that the majority of local government reps around the country are part time and so they’re not comparing apples with apples.

I look at some of the fiascos with things like building the jail too small despite expert advice that it needed to be larger and some of the awful ministers we’ve had. Hopefully with more MLA’s in the Assembly errors will get picked up before they cost the taxpayer millions of dollars and the ministerial standard will be better meaning that the 8 extra MLA’s plus staff will pay for themselves (or at least break even).
http://www.elections.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/10142/Size_of_the_Assembly_Final_report.pdf

#13
cmdwedge9:44 am, 14 Mar 14

A much clearer (and more important) view would be to see how the seats were distributed in a 5×5 configuration, not 8-8-9 as you’ve done.

What will happen is the Greens will be slaughtered. They will need 20% of the vote to get a MLA. The best result for the Green was 13.2% – http://www.elections.act.gov.au/elections_and_voting/past_act_legislative_assembly_elections/2012_act_legislative_assembly_election/2012_election_results2/2012_results_by_party/results_by_party_-_act_greens

The other results are even worse. If the system goes to 5×5 (five electorates of five MLAs, the preferred split for both Liberal and Labor), the Greens will cease to be in this town – in fact, it will largely be impossible for any minor party or independent to seat an MLA.

As such, Shane Rattenbury was utterly filthy with Jeremy Hanson when JH was announcing that the Liberal lay-party had voted in favour of 5×5 electorates.

The future will be majorities only. No more alliances. And it will forever be Labor and Liberal.

Unless of course we go to 5×7 (five electorates of seven members) in 2020. That’d bring the Greens and minor parties back into play.

#14
Az9:57 am, 14 Mar 14

‘Spose the increase could be justified by claiming the ACT LA does the work of two tiers of government anywhere else in Australia (NT excepted?), but….

Operationally it will lead to increased funding for the major parties via more bums on seats and more tax-payer funded staff to shine those bums, along with all the other freebies (study trips, transport, offices, allowances etc). The proposed voting system will deliver nearly exactly the same voting blocks at a drastically increased cost.

What’s the budget deficit running at now? A good chunk of a billion dollars or something. Canberra’s in recession and the looming Federal budget will do its best to make sure the city stays that way for years.

An ostentatious expansion of the LA in the current political/economic climate is probably not the best idea. It’s sure to get adopted.

#15
HiddenDragon11:00 am, 14 Mar 14

switch said :

HiddenDragon said :

The Liberals got sucked in on the move from three to four year terms, so it’s a little (but not much) suprising they’ve fallen for this one – would have been a great opportunity to make a stand on an issue which would have resontated with many Canberra voter/taxpayers.

When do politicians of any sort ever vote to spend less on themselves?

Yes, it almost always goes in the one direction, although there was that rare moment of madness when Latham bluffed/stampeded Howard into cutting superannuation entitlements (prospectively, of course) for federal politicians. I assume that has since been at least partially reversed.

#16
HiddenDragon11:04 am, 14 Mar 14

cmdwedge said :

A much clearer (and more important) view would be to see how the seats were distributed in a 5×5 configuration, not 8-8-9 as you’ve done.

What will happen is the Greens will be slaughtered. They will need 20% of the vote to get a MLA. The best result for the Green was 13.2% – http://www.elections.act.gov.au/elections_and_voting/past_act_legislative_assembly_elections/2012_act_legislative_assembly_election/2012_election_results2/2012_results_by_party/results_by_party_-_act_greens

The other results are even worse. If the system goes to 5×5 (five electorates of five MLAs, the preferred split for both Liberal and Labor), the Greens will cease to be in this town – in fact, it will largely be impossible for any minor party or independent to seat an MLA.

As such, Shane Rattenbury was utterly filthy with Jeremy Hanson when JH was announcing that the Liberal lay-party had voted in favour of 5×5 electorates.

The future will be majorities only. No more alliances. And it will forever be Labor and Liberal.

Unless of course we go to 5×7 (five electorates of seven members) in 2020. That’d bring the Greens and minor parties back into play.

Most interesting – a Green, or any other non-Labor/Liberal candidate who held out the prospect of being a true independent and, to use that old phrase “keep the bastards honest”, would surely have a better chance than a candidate who was seen as being in bed with one of the major parties.

#17
switch11:41 am, 14 Mar 14

Garfield said :

If you have a look at the tables on page 35 of the report by the expert reference panel into the size of the ACT Assembly you will see that we currently have 1 state/local politician for every 15129 enrolled voters. The state with the next lowest representation is Victoria with 1 for every 4769 voters. You have to keep in mind that the ACT Assembly is responsible for both state and local government issues. Of course what the reference panel didn’t include was the fact that the majority of local government reps around the country are part time and so they’re not comparing apples with apples.

So is there a way of finding the average cost of a representative in the other states?

switch said :

I look at some of the fiascos with things like building the jail too small despite expert advice that it needed to be larger and some of the awful ministers we’ve had. Hopefully with more MLA’s in the Assembly errors will get picked up before they cost the taxpayer millions of dollars and the ministerial standard will be better meaning that the 8 extra MLA’s plus staff will pay for themselves (or at least break even).
http://www.elections.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/10142/Size_of_the_Assembly_Final_report.pdf

Dream on.

#18
switch11:44 am, 14 Mar 14

Can’t we go back to just having a single Administrator?

#19
watto2312:43 pm, 14 Mar 14

cmdwedge said :

A much clearer (and more important) view would be to see how the seats were distributed in a 5×5 configuration, not 8-8-9 as you’ve done.

What will happen is the Greens will be slaughtered. They will need 20% of the vote to get a MLA. The best result for the Green was 13.2% – http://www.elections.act.gov.au/elections_and_voting/past_act_legislative_assembly_elections/2012_act_legislative_assembly_election/2012_election_results2/2012_results_by_party/results_by_party_-_act_greens

The other results are even worse. If the system goes to 5×5 (five electorates of five MLAs, the preferred split for both Liberal and Labor), the Greens will cease to be in this town – in fact, it will largely be impossible for any minor party or independent to seat an MLA.

As such, Shane Rattenbury was utterly filthy with Jeremy Hanson when JH was announcing that the Liberal lay-party had voted in favour of 5×5 electorates.

The future will be majorities only. No more alliances. And it will forever be Labor and Liberal.

Unless of course we go to 5×7 (five electorates of seven members) in 2020. That’d bring the Greens and minor parties back into play.

Actually 13% would probably be enough to secure a quota on preferences.
While it is true that a 5 seat electorate will mostly favour the major parties, with almost guaranteed 2 seats per electorate and whoever controls the remaining 5 will form parliament, even in the 5 seat electorates in the past that 5th seat hasn’t always gone to a major party.

More electorates will mean the differences around town will be more visible, so maybe a more city orientated electorate will result in a higher minor party vote for the greens for example.

FYI i’m a swinging voter, just trying to put rational statements to the discussion.

#20
astrojax1:13 pm, 14 Mar 14

let’s all be a politician…

#21
housebound2:45 pm, 14 Mar 14

How much would the extra pollies cost?
On page 31 of the Assembly report, we read that the ANNUAL cost will be:
(a) $0.410 million for each extra MLA;
(b) $0.652 million more for each extra Minister.
That’ll add up to an extra $1 million a year for an extra MLA who is a Minister.

And what do LGA Councillors cost? Around $25,000 a year each (plus oncosts). So for your average 10-member council (152 councils with around 1500 part-time pollies), the total bill would be $0.25 million a year plus whatever oncosts there are (which the LGA publication didn’t tell me).

The Assembly report didn’t really provide a genuine justification for any increase in the number of pollies, other than keeping up with the neighbours.

There was no data to support the contention that Ministers were crumbling under the current workload (other than the shame of meeting in COAG and the like with more than one hat, oh the shame!), and no analysis of how this had led to poor decisions or poorly implemented decisions for the ACT. There’s no shortage of candidates for elections, including the incumbents, so it can’t be all that bad.

Anyway, we all know there have been no poor decisions: the ACT Government is constantly telling us how competent it is, and how much it is doing for us all!

So, why do we need more politicians when we will be facing even more dire economic times than in 2006. For those with short memories, the 2006 budget slashed at services to save significantly smaller amounts of money. For example, Andrew Barr closed 23 schools to save less than an average of $0.5 million a year each.

The epic fail in all this is the imposition of a Westminster system on such a small jurisdiction with one house of parliament. It doesn’t work. Adding politicians will only add to the ranks of a disempowered and demoralised opposition that will continue to watch while the government pretty well does whatever it wants. Sure, we’ll have more assembly reports with more detail, but there won’t be any extra requirement for the Government to do more with them than they do now. I would call it throwing good money after bad.

#22
ThePickle5:51 am, 15 Mar 14

I vote for halving the current number and lowering our rates with the savings. We don’t need more legislators to create more red tape and regulation.

#23
miz10:01 am, 15 Mar 14

Everyone is asking the wrong question. The question should NOT be ‘how many more MLAs do we need to run the current framework,’ but ‘how can we make the administrative framework more efficient?’ It should be noted that council members are part time and all actively work for council. [Therefore, cc and jkbbcc, you would have to work out full time equivalents to truly compare representation across jurisdictions.] Compare and contrast the efficient council framework to the current westminster model of the ACT Assembly, whereby almost half of our representatives are ‘wasted’ because they must spend all their time being the ‘opposition’ – and being generously remunerated with generous conditions simply for doing that. I know our MLAs work hard under the circs, and do their best, but in truth we all know most of what the opposition does is effectively ‘full of sound fury, signifying nothing’. Canberrans are smart (as Mr Warhurst pointed out the other day in the CT here – http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/assembling-the-battle-lines-20140312-34mfp.html
Surprisingly, Mr Warhurst does not appear to understand that Canberrans are angry about self-government because we have known, since its inception, that the ACT Assembly as it stands is NOT good value for money.

. . . I have a dream.

We need to get serious about finding a more efficient arrangement. I propose that we amend the self-govt act to split the ‘State level’ responsibilities (health, education, housing, child protection etc) from the ‘council level’ responsibilities. State responsibilities can be one large directorate with a Minister or two, and the remainder (planning, parks, roads, rates and rubbish, public transport etc) can be a council. Councillors can then be part time (and paid accordingly), all would be active and would have to work together, and they could keep their day job that keeps them in the real world.

Then, we would definitely NOT need more representatives than we have now and we would get better services from the money saved. We might even get those symbols of a well-run local council – a green bin and a hard rubbish collection for all, and proper road surfaces instead of dumped gravel!

PS In case you are wondering where I get this stuff, a family member is deputy mayor in a Sydney council in the eastern suburbs. Her position is part time and she also has a paying job.

#24
rommeldog5610:17 am, 16 Mar 14

housebound said :

How much would the extra pollies cost?
On page 31 of the Assembly report, we read that the ANNUAL cost will be:
(a) $0.410 million for each extra MLA;
(b) $0.652 million more for each extra Minister.
That’ll add up to an extra $1 million a year for an extra MLA who is a Minister.

And what do LGA Councillors cost? Around $25,000 a year each (plus oncosts). So for your average 10-member council (152 councils with around 1500 part-time pollies), the total bill would be $0.25 million a year plus whatever oncosts there are (which the LGA publication didn’t tell me).

The Assembly report didn’t really provide a genuine justification for any increase in the number of pollies, other than keeping up with the neighbours.

There was no data to support the contention that Ministers were crumbling under the current workload (other than the shame of meeting in COAG and the like with more than one hat, oh the shame!), and no analysis of how this had led to poor decisions or poorly implemented decisions for the ACT. There’s no shortage of candidates for elections, including the incumbents, so it can’t be all that bad.

Anyway, we all know there have been no poor decisions: the ACT Government is constantly telling us how competent it is, and how much it is doing for us all!

So, why do we need more politicians when we will be facing even more dire economic times than in 2006. For those with short memories, the 2006 budget slashed at services to save significantly smaller amounts of money. For example, Andrew Barr closed 23 schools to save less than an average of $0.5 million a year each.

The epic fail in all this is the imposition of a Westminster system on such a small jurisdiction with one house of parliament. It doesn’t work. Adding politicians will only add to the ranks of a disempowered and demoralised opposition that will continue to watch while the government pretty well does whatever it wants. Sure, we’ll have more assembly reports with more detail, but there won’t be any extra requirement for the Government to do more with them than they do now. I would call it throwing good money after bad.

Some good points, housebound. Re costs : there was mention last week that the ACT Legislative Assembly building in Civic would also need extensive renovation/extension to accommodate all the extra MLAs , Ministers and their staff.

I probably wouldnt mind an expansion to the numbers of MLAs so much, except that :

1) The Territory’s budget is deep in the red and ACT Gov’t charges are rapidly increasing, including Annual Rates. There is a time and place to increase the number of MLAs, now is clearly not that time, particularly with the Feds about to hit this place.

2) Does more MLAs = better decision making ? I doubt it. More MLAs will just probably mean a continuation of the poor decision making and economic management of the current ACT Government.

3) Does anyone really believe that more MLAs will materially improve representation or Government decision making ? Probably just = more spin – along party lines.

4) Have u ever heard of a MLA not accepting a Ministership, or an MLA not taking up the appointment, because of the pay or workload ? They know what is expected of them.

In a recent comment, the Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, said, in relation to comments about their recent stimulus package (which included expansion of public WiFi in Cbr), that just because the Territory is in deficit, that shouldn’t stop us from putting “one foot in front of the other” and going forward.

Great spin Katy !! So, if I haven’t got the money to do it, does that mean I should go out and buy a new car – or a better house ? I can not – because I can not simply increase my charges (ie.your Gov’t charges) to pay for it. Its called responsible budget management.

Politicians remind me of a Virus – they divide and multiply and build resistance to external interference.

#25
VicePope8:15 am, 18 Mar 14

Are there enough buffoons left outside the Assembly to provide the additional numbers? I mean, the ones we have are of exceptionally average quality (comparable to the poker machine change queue at the Sutho), and there;s a risk that expanding the size means we may get some better ones. People who can, for example, read or write (or at least draw expressively).

The fact that some hack is put up by a party does not mean that he or she is really worthy of election. We deserve much better. A handful of halfway competent people could provide a better result for much less cost. Adding more monkeys to the cage doesn’t make the monkeys smarter.

If we paid them much less, took away the staff and cars and made almost all them part-time, we’d do better whether we have 17, 25, 35 or 100. That way, we might get people who have some real talent, rather than the ability to rise to favour in the shallow and poison pools of our local political parties. I can bore at length on this subject, but I’ll stop now.

#26
Garfield8:33 am, 20 Mar 14

VicePope said :

Are there enough buffoons left outside the Assembly to provide the additional numbers? I mean, the ones we have are of exceptionally average quality (comparable to the poker machine change queue at the Sutho), and there;s a risk that expanding the size means we may get some better ones. People who can, for example, read or write (or at least draw expressively).

The fact that some hack is put up by a party does not mean that he or she is really worthy of election. We deserve much better. A handful of halfway competent people could provide a better result for much less cost. Adding more monkeys to the cage doesn’t make the monkeys smarter.

If we paid them much less, took away the staff and cars and made almost all them part-time, we’d do better whether we have 17, 25, 35 or 100. That way, we might get people who have some real talent, rather than the ability to rise to favour in the shallow and poison pools of our local political parties. I can bore at length on this subject, but I’ll stop now.

Just because someone has the ability to get voters to vote for them does not mean they are the most talented candidates the parties put forward. I vote Liberal and look at some of the candidates who were elected in 2012 vs some of those who weren’t. If I could pick and choose there would be some of the unsuccessful candidates in the assembly instead of some of the incumbents. Many voters only have a partial understanding of what the parties stand for and have no clue as to the substance of individual candidates. In the absence of an interested electorate, the only way to potentially improve the quality of ministers is to have more members in the assembly.

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