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Moves for a bigger Assembly gather momentum

By 8 November 2012 33

The ABC has word of moves on the hill to give the Legislative Assembly the power to change its own composition, in turn paving the way for Chief Minister Gallagher’s favoured 25 seat Assembly.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says Julia Gillard has written to Minister for the Territories Simon Crean asking for legislation to be drawn up to give MLAs the power over their numbers.

Currently only the Federal Government can change the numbers in the 17 member Assembly.

Ms Gallagher says the current number is too small for the workload involved.

“We were 17 members when self-government started, the population was half the size it is now,” she said.

“The job has got bigger and I think to deliver good government there is an acceptance that we need to increase the size.”

Ms Gallagher says she would like to see the Assembly increased to 25 members at the next election in 2016.

There’s something in this for everyone.

Traditionally holding the biggest single block of seats Labor gets more MLAs and more staffing positions with which to reward factional spear carriers.

But more MLAs means a smaller number of votes needed to get a candidate up. The Greens will like the idea of that.

For the Liberals the appeal is a better chance of getting the amenable independents into the Assembly they need to form Government.

With everyone seeing an upside these things can happen very fast.

Chief Minister Gallagher has blogged the letter from the PM to the Minister.

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33 Responses to Moves for a bigger Assembly gather momentum
#1
bikhet11:38 am, 08 Nov 12

Here’s a novel idea – how about letting the serfs have a say in how many rulers they have? Can’t do that though as they might not like the answer.

I see two possible benefits:

1) ministers will be able to spend more time on their responsibilities and so make fewer stuff-ups – one hopes!

2) there might be someone around to take care of the local government aspects of the job.

The negatives are too many to enumerate, but a few to start with:

1) cost. More members, more staffers, more, more, more

2) the more of them there are the more time they’ll have to come up with ridiculous laws and regulations – the Texan approach has a lot to recommend it.

3) more people to pass the buck to.

#2
davo10111:45 am, 08 Nov 12

I’m not sure if it will help small parties. It would depend on how geographically spread out your supporters were. If all of your supporters live in one area then you’d like a small electorate centred on this area, if they’re spread out you’d prefer to have large electorates.

#3
Morgan11:51 am, 08 Nov 12

Could we give the Electoral Commission more power to vary the size of electorates? Can we give each town centre (Gungahlin, Belco, Inner North, Inner South, Woden, Weston?, Tuggers) their own, and simply vary the number of members as populations change? In my opinion, the less the assembly has to do with deciding this in the future the better as we will simply end up with attempts to Gerrymander or manage the number of members to ensure minor parties do or don’t get elected.

If we had more local electorates we could have some planning issues dealt with by only those members who represent that area? Almost like having all the Belconnen members sitting on an informal Belconnen local council

#4
Peewee Slasher12:00 pm, 08 Nov 12

Great idea. Now … lets apply that idea to the agencies where the public servants work.
I’m sure the MLA’s will empathise with them.

#5
Tetranitrate12:06 pm, 08 Nov 12

Give us a plebiscite to chose between status quo, 3 times 7 and 5 times 5.

#6
astrojax12:13 pm, 08 Nov 12

i rekkun going from seventeen to twenty five in one fell swoop is too big a jump – maybe re-jigging the electoral boundaries only slightly and having three lots of seven [so twenty one mlas] would be a better option.

this would be a less-cost option tha that mooted by the venerable leader yet deliver many of the benefits she attributes to the expansion of the assembly. she is reported as saying twenty five at the next election would be good – what do other members say; do we know?

#7
Alderney12:17 pm, 08 Nov 12

Why not have 25 single member electorates making each MLA more accountable, and more likely known, to each electorate.

Something like the old hundred system but a bit bigger.

With about 260 000 electors it’s a bit over 10 000 people to an MLA.

We could get rid of that terrible Hare Clark and either have first past the post or a preferential system.

The Americans got a result in a day and they have over 100 million votes cast. It took us a week to figure out who won and even then it had to be negotiated (as if the Greens weren’t going to plumb for Labor anyway).

#8
Tetranitrate12:24 pm, 08 Nov 12

Alderney said :

Why not have 25 single member electorates making each MLA more accountable, and more likely known, to each electorate.

Something like the old hundred system but a bit bigger.

With about 260 000 electors it’s a bit over 10 000 people to an MLA.

We could get rid of that terrible Hare Clark and either have first past the post or a preferential system.

The Americans got a result in a day and they have over 100 million votes cast. It took us a week to figure out who won and even then it had to be negotiated (as if the Greens weren’t going to plumb for Labor anyway).

It’d work alright if we were electing a local council that actually functioned like a local council.
Unfortunately what would actually occur is a permanent labor majority government that could do as it pleased without any fear of ever being tossed out of office.

#9
Thumper12:41 pm, 08 Nov 12

Surely it’s time for a benevolent dictator?

#10
astrojax12:47 pm, 08 Nov 12

Alderney said :

The Americans got a result in a day and they have over 100 million votes cast. It took us a week to figure out who won and even then it had to be negotiated (as if the Greens weren’t going to plumb for Labor anyway).

the americans choose between just two candidates – maybe we should all just vote for an single overlord and be done with it? a poor analogy here, good sir/madam…

#11
joingler1:29 pm, 08 Nov 12

Alderney said :

Why not have 25 single member electorates making each MLA more accountable, and more likely known, to each electorate.

Something like the old hundred system but a bit bigger.

With about 260 000 electors it’s a bit over 10 000 people to an MLA.

We could get rid of that terrible Hare Clark and either have first past the post or a preferential system.

The Americans got a result in a day and they have over 100 million votes cast. It took us a week to figure out who won and even then it had to be negotiated (as if the Greens weren’t going to plumb for Labor anyway).

Why is it such a big deal if we have to wait a week or so for results? Hare Clarke is good as your vote goes to where you want it to go – not where parties want it to go.

#12
watto231:32 pm, 08 Nov 12

Firstly there is nothing wrong with the hare-clark system. It seems to be a problem now because it was 8-8-1 and supporters of Liberal party seem most upset. Also you need the Hare-Clark system that produces minority governments in the ACT unless there is an overwhelming majority, because we have a single house of government. We had a majority labor government and it was one of the worst we ever had. When the Liberals controlled both houses in the federal electorate all sorts of one sided policies were created.

The sooner staunch liberal and labor supporters realise that neither have all the answers needed to run a country properly the better. If a left or right wing party had power and yet also put more moderate and bi-partisan proposals up they’d stay in power longer because the swing/moderate/fringe voters probably wouldn’t change their mind as quickly. Swing too quickly in favour of right or left and the election usually boots you out next time.

So either 3 x 7 member electorates or 5 x 5 member electorates are needed with hare-clark or similar proportionate voting system. At least with 5 electorates, the boundaries would be able to mirror Tuggeranong, Belconnen, Woden/weston, Gungahlin and inner canberra better, although population moves so the borders would never be exact. 3×7 electorates would probably result in some of Gungahlin with Belconnen and more of woden with tuggeranong.

Then many of the candidates elected don’t live in their electorate either. I hope Gungahlin residents are not expecting a lot, because no MLA’s will share their pain.

#13
EvanJames2:19 pm, 08 Nov 12

This would not be necessary if they ran it like a local council, where every councillor gets allocated jobs to do, committees to sit on, things to be responsible for. It’s idiocy to have 5 or 6 people holding a laundry list of portfolios while the rest of the elected people get to oppose them. WTF?

Wasteful, inefficient, and pointless.

#14
johnboy2:32 pm, 08 Nov 12

EvanJames said :

This would not be necessary if they ran it like a local council, where every councillor gets allocated jobs to do, committees to sit on, things to be responsible for. It’s idiocy to have 5 or 6 people holding a laundry list of portfolios while the rest of the elected people get to oppose them. WTF?

Wasteful, inefficient, and pointless.

The non-ministers do all work in committees

#15
peitab3:00 pm, 08 Nov 12

astrojax said :

Alderney said :

maybe we should all just vote for an single overlord and be done with it? a poor analogy here, good sir/madam…

Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos

#16
caf3:37 pm, 08 Nov 12

But more MLAs means a smaller number of votes needed to get a candidate up. The Greens will like the idea of that.

This ain’t necessarily so. What makes it easier to get a candidate up is more MLAs per electorate – 7 member electorates are better for the Greens than 5 member, so the mooted 5-by-5 arrangement would not necessarily be to the Greens’ advantage over the status quo.

#17
chewy143:52 pm, 08 Nov 12

3 x 7 Member Electorates.

Belconnen And Gungahlin.

North, South Canberra and Woden.

Tuggeranong and Weston Creek.

#18
Chop714:22 pm, 08 Nov 12

http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-national/gillard-backs-bigger-act-parliament-20121108-290au.html

Seems a done deal (and they didn’t even have to fudge the numbers)

#19
aussielyn4:41 pm, 08 Nov 12

My opinion is that each MLA must have a smaller local patch that they know and represent. They should be there to serve their local community rather than party or faction. If politicians are not responsive to their constituents, the system is dysfunctional.

The electorate of Molonglo is a good example of a dog’s breakfast of local issues. What a divergent lot like the residents of Gungahlin & Oaks Estate have in common defies all notions of representation.

Entrenchment Referenda must also be a part of voting in the ACT. In 1995, 65% of voters approved of the Hare- Clark electoral system. The will of the people on contentious issues could then be mandated and made law. California just voted on 10 propositions that were put to them. If our Govt trusted the people it would ask it more often what was their opinion.

The debate over our electoral system has just started. I hope that more power will devolve to the people with the changing technology, not party hacks.

#20
Kim F5:48 pm, 08 Nov 12

If this goes ahead, let’s make it cost neutral. With more members, the current ones wont have to “do” as much as they currently do. Accordingly, a pay cut for the existing members to pay for the new ones.

#21
Deckard6:46 pm, 08 Nov 12

astrojax said :

Alderney said :

the americans choose between just two candidates – maybe we should all just vote for an single overlord and be done with it? a poor analogy here, good sir/madam…

Actually they choose between heaps of candidates, they just usually don’t get a look in the media or anywhere…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_third_party_and_independent_presidential_candidates,_2012

#22
caf7:26 pm, 08 Nov 12

For those trying to figure out where the new electorates would fit geographically, these are the population figures from the last census:

Gungahlin: 49,734
Belconnen: 94,696
North Canberra: 49,917
Fyshwick-Pialligo-Hume: 1,530
South Canberra: 25,068
Weston Creek: 23,218
Woden: 33,887
Tuggeranong: 89,131

Five equal electorates need to have about 73,500 population each; three equal electorates about 122,500. You can see that it’s not a completely trivial matter to make it work out – with five equal electorates you can’t have all of Belconnen or all of Tuggeranong in the one electorate.

#23
Duffbowl9:10 am, 09 Nov 12

caf said :

For those trying to figure out where the new electorates would fit geographically, these are the population figures from the last census:

Gungahlin: 49,734
Belconnen: 94,696
North Canberra: 49,917
Fyshwick-Pialligo-Hume: 1,530
South Canberra: 25,068
Weston Creek: 23,218
Woden: 33,887
Tuggeranong: 89,131

Five equal electorates need to have about 73,500 population each; three equal electorates about 122,500. You can see that it’s not a completely trivial matter to make it work out – with five equal electorates you can’t have all of Belconnen or all of Tuggeranong in the one electorate.

And if you take into consideration that not all of the people within a district would be eligible to vote, you get another spanner in the works.
Proportional representation, working with Hare-Clark, may be easier to administer in the long run.
Each district becomes an electorate. Approximately 25% of the population is aged 19 or younger. For simplicity, we’ll exclude them as being ineligible to vote, and make it even across the electorates. This leaves us with 275386 voters, spread out as follows:
Gungahlin: 37301
Belconnen: 71022
North Canberra: 37438
Fyshwick-Pialligo-Hume: 1148
South Canberra: 18801
Weston Creek: 17414
Woden: 25415
Tuggeranong: 66848

For a 25 member Legislative Assembly, each member gets 11015.43 votes. With some (very rough) electoral rounding, we end up with…
Gungahlin: 3
Belconnen: 6
North Canberra: 3
Fyshwick-Pialligo-Hume: 0 (Rolled into South Canberra)
South Canberra: 2
Weston Creek: 2
Woden: 2
Tuggeranong: 6
Which gives us only 24 members. Where do we get the 25th one from? The northside would be the most likely, probably assigned to Belconnen.

The raw results:
Gungahlin: 3.386204624
Belconnen: 6.447501369
North Canberra: 3.398664419
Fyshwick-Pialligo-Hume: 0.104172057
South Canberra: 1.706787661
Weston Creek: 1.580827984
Woden: 2.307240843
Tuggeranong: 6.068601044

Winners and losers…

#24
pepmeup10:31 am, 09 Nov 12

Kim F said :

If this goes ahead, let’s make it cost neutral. With more members, the current ones wont have to “do” as much as they currently do. Accordingly, a pay cut for the existing members to pay for the new ones.

Yep about a 30% paycut should do the trick, the MLAs will be doing less and will therefore be paid less.

I worry about a jump to 25 as it will bring a lot of new blood in, do we have the talent pool of people willing to run local politics? I think not

#25
astrojax12:35 pm, 09 Nov 12

Deckard said :

astrojax said :

Alderney said :

the americans choose between just two candidates – maybe we should all just vote for an single overlord and be done with it? a poor analogy here, good sir/madam…

Actually they choose between heaps of candidates, they just usually don’t get a look in the media or anywhere…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_third_party_and_independent_presidential_candidates,_2012

thanks deckard, yoiu’re very right of course… after i hit ‘submit’ i did remember that there were independents (who can forget ralph nader?); but essentially only two have any chance and between them get about 137% of the vote, or close…

#26
aussielyn1:55 pm, 09 Nov 12

You should be aware that ABS & Elections ACT populations are not aligned.

According to Elections ACT the 2012 Enrolment was:
Brindabella 72,368
Ginninderra 76,140
Molonglo 108,194
Total 256,702

If this total enrolment was put into 5 electorates it would give 51,340 to each. The original concept was to have a ratio of 1 voter to 10,000 constituents.
The process would be the Feds changing their law first, the expert committee asking for submissions and presenting recommendations to the ACT Legislative Assembly. The ACTLA may refer it to a committee, Admin & Procedures, which would hold hearings. The ACTLA would then vote on the recommendations of the committee.

Previous submissions can be viewed here: http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/committees/index1.asp?committee=118&inquiry=1043&category=14

You will have your chance to voice your opinion on any change in the territory electoral system.

#27
Roundhead892:04 pm, 09 Nov 12

The only way the community will support this is if the chances of more Greens being elected is minimised as much as possible. At the moment this is smelling like The Greens’ revenge on the voters of Canberra and a backdoor way of getting more Greens into the Assembly.

Remember that if there was one more seat in both Brindabella and Ginninderra the Greens candidates would have retained their seats, and if there was an extra seat in Molonglo the other defeated Greens candidate would have also retained her seat.

The only way The Greens could be locked out is if we have seven electorates of three candidates each or six seats in Tuggeranong with three candidates each and five other electorates in the rest of Canberra with one candidate each. I would be totally in favour of this.

#28
Tetranitrate3:02 pm, 09 Nov 12

Roundhead89 said :

The only way the community will support this is if the chances of more Greens being elected is minimised as much as possible. At the moment this is smelling like The Greens’ revenge on the voters of Canberra and a backdoor way of getting more Greens into the Assembly.

Remember that if there was one more seat in both Brindabella and Ginninderra the Greens candidates would have retained their seats, and if there was an extra seat in Molonglo the other defeated Greens candidate would have also retained her seat.

The only way The Greens could be locked out is if we have seven electorates of three candidates each or six seats in Tuggeranong with three candidates each and five other electorates in the rest of Canberra with one candidate each. I would be totally in favour of this.

The AEC isn’t going to gerrymander/malapportion the system to keep the greens out, keep dreaming.
There wouldn’t ever be more seats in molonglo either – and the present situation with molonglo (which happens to contain a higher proportion of greens voters) being larger and thus having a lower quota actually gives them a significant advantage in getting into parliament over a minor party whose support is concentrated in the northern or southern suburbs, where the quota for an MLA is higher.

Anyway, electorates will have an odd number of seats, and each electorate will have the same number of seats, guaranteed. (also an odd number of electorates, to ensure you can’t get an assembly split down the middle).

Electorates in a 7/7/7 configuration would be physically different as well, with Brindabella and Ginninderra ending up geographically larger relative to molonglo,
My biggest beef isn’t that Greens get in, it’s that more people voted for ‘others’ of various stripes than voted for the Greens, but none are elected. Yes yes they’re different candidates of various stripes, but of note is that under 7/7/7 Chic Henry would almost certainly have gotten up, and the Motorists would probably have gotten MLAs in both Ginninderra and Brindabella in 2008.

#29
caf3:58 pm, 09 Nov 12

Roundhead89 said :

The only way The Greens could be locked out is if we have seven electorates of three candidates each or six seats in Tuggeranong with three candidates each and five other electorates in the rest of Canberra with one candidate each. I would be totally in favour of this.

If you’re so determined to thwart people from electing the representatives that they want, why not just outright pass a law saying that only members of the Labor or Liberal parties may contest the election?

#30
astrojax4:19 pm, 09 Nov 12

caf said :

Roundhead89 said :

The only way The Greens could be locked out is if we have seven electorates of three candidates each or six seats in Tuggeranong with three candidates each and five other electorates in the rest of Canberra with one candidate each. I would be totally in favour of this.

If you’re so determined to thwart people from electing the representatives that they want, why not just outright pass a law saying that only members of the Labor or Liberal parties may contest the election?

+1 – well said… [i mean, how much primary vote did the greens lose in this election compared to the last?]

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