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20 years of local government

johnboy 4 March 2009 42

The ABC brings the news that today is the 20th anniversary of Self Government in the ACT.

It was 4 March 1989 that the reluctant electors of the ACT trooped miserably to the polling places to be confronted by a table cloth size ballot paper (pictured in the ABC article) which would send the first bunch of clowns off to their paid three year gig under the big top on London Circuit.

Aside from those directly employed by the Assembly I think it’s fair to say no-one’s been very happy with the outcomes since then. Although I note that corners of the town have thrived without the dead hand of the Commonwealth bureaucracy upon them.

So at 20 years what changes would you like to see made to the Government is conducted in the ACT?


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jakez jakez 9:47 am 05 Mar 09

monomania said :

caf said :

Single Member Electorates are an undemocratic rort designed to entrench the two-party system. The disadvantage of one large multi-member electorate (ie, that you end up with a few fruitcakes) is also its advantage (the makeup of the parliament more closely represents the vote of the electors).

A few multi-member electorates seems a good compromise – the bar is high enough that you have to have a decent level of real support to get in, but low enough that it doesn’t turn into a one-party whitewash.

I agree. Fruit cakes are entitled to representation too. I think a lot of our elected members are already fruitcakes and some were not directly elected but ‘appointed’ by their party and elected on its vote. Of course our major political parties, Liberal, Labor and the Greens like electorates with a small number of members since it entrenches their power. Why not three electorates of nine or two of 14 and 13 with no preferences or Hare Clark. Major parties would need to select the best candidates (not party hacks) and put up a sensible number of candidates.

More people would get their member of choice.

I agree with you except on preferences or hare clark. An inability to preference entrenches the major parties. Look at the US where 10-20% self identify as libertarian yet the Libertarian candidate has only ever once cracked 1% in a Presidential election (1980).

Wasted vote syndrome, it protects the two (or in the ACT’s case three) party system.

sepi sepi 9:27 pm 04 Mar 09

I don’t think the ACT is that easy. NSW has heaps of ministers – so they get to have just one portfolio per minister. Not like Katy with health/treasurer and a few more as a job lot.

Ours also have the Feds interfering all the time in legislation. The airport is nearly in the middle of town and does what it likes. Ditto for parliament house/NCA.

They have a well educated population who expects to be looked after – and who were quite used to being looked after under the fed govt.

They have a small population base to make money from, resorting mostly to housing taxes.

They are at the whim of the Feds again on employment – cuts to the PS cut Canberra to the bone.

They have got a very spread out town with poor transport infrastructure.

They have a population that is good at writing to ministers and complaining.

There are no efficiencies in only running one or two hospitals.

They are running out of water.

They have trouble hiring good people, as we can all get better pay for doing less for the Feds.

…………..
That said, they aren’t doing themselves any favours by not improving the transport infrastructure.

And they really need to concentrate on the basics – enough busses, shorter waits in hospital etc, instead of pointless announcibles like touchscreens at busstops and snazzy sleep clinics that noone wants.

It is like they think they have to keep thinking of new stuff to do, and noone has told them they also have to keep things running along smoothly as well.

monomania monomania 8:41 pm 04 Mar 09

caf said :

Single Member Electorates are an undemocratic rort designed to entrench the two-party system. The disadvantage of one large multi-member electorate (ie, that you end up with a few fruitcakes) is also its advantage (the makeup of the parliament more closely represents the vote of the electors).

A few multi-member electorates seems a good compromise – the bar is high enough that you have to have a decent level of real support to get in, but low enough that it doesn’t turn into a one-party whitewash.

I agree. Fruit cakes are entitled to representation too. I think a lot of our elected members are already fruitcakes and some were not directly elected but ‘appointed’ by their party and elected on its vote. Of course our major political parties, Liberal, Labor and the Greens like electorates with a small number of members since it entrenches their power. Why not three electorates of nine or two of 14 and 13 with no preferences or Hare Clark. Major parties would need to select the best candidates (not party hacks) and put up a sensible number of candidates. More people would get their member of choice.

p1 p1 4:32 pm 04 Mar 09

We have world class institutions, two universities, a great footy stadium and a climate of four proper seasons.

Which universities are you counting, and which dismissing so blatantly?

(ANU, UC, ACU, or ADFA?)

AG Canberra AG Canberra 4:04 pm 04 Mar 09

Are they really that overworked? Really?

Compare one of our jokers with say a NSW Minister (please note I am not holding up the NSW Gov as a model for good government!).

Ours has no travel issues (unless they drive on the GDE in peak hour)
Ours has less than 100 schools, a few hospitals, one airport, one power/water provider, and ONLY 350 000 people to keep happy. Their public servants are all located within a stones throw of their own offices, they have only one news paper, a couple of soft TV outlets and a pandering ABC to deal with. They have fixed terms and no Upper House.

Their constituents earn more money than those in any other city in Aus and they have the lowest levels of unemployment. We rarely experience natural disasters. We have world class institutions, two universities, a great footy stadium and a climate of four proper seasons.

Pluheeeze – the ACT should be the EASIEST place to be a Minister.

caf caf 3:10 pm 04 Mar 09

That would certainly be possible, and I can’t see any particular problem with it. Though if you’re that politically aware you almost certainly want to preference particular candidates (or at least, know enough to be able to express your wishes below-the-line).

jakez jakez 2:47 pm 04 Mar 09

caf said :

tom-tom: The argument about Britain is bollocks, because they don’t have preferences – their system is (even more undemocratic) first-past-the-post.

An acceptable way to have above-the-line voting in Hare-Clark without handing the famous faceless men in smoke-filled rooms any additional power is to remove the ability for parties to specify what an above-the-line vote means – simply define an above the line vote for a column on the ballot as being equivalent to numbering that column 1,2,3,4,5… from top to bottom. Robson Rotation means that across all ballots this would be equivalent to a vote for the party, but expressing no particular preference for candidates within the party (which appears to be what the voter is trying to express).

Hmm, an intriguing idea Caf. I take it you could preference vote above the line (eg, I may vote 1 Libs, 2 LDP) and after exhausting through the Libs, it could transfer to the LDP ticket?

tom-tom tom-tom 2:44 pm 04 Mar 09

caf: i was referring to local and regional elections in britain; many of which do use preferences. (mostly those around ireland and scotland according to wikipedia, i went and double checked) I should have been more specific but i think in a thread about local/regional govt that its a fair comparison and the argument still stands.

caf caf 2:29 pm 04 Mar 09

tom-tom: The argument about Britain is bollocks, because they don’t have preferences – their system is (even more undemocratic) first-past-the-post.

An acceptable way to have above-the-line voting in Hare-Clark without handing the famous faceless men in smoke-filled rooms any additional power is to remove the ability for parties to specify what an above-the-line vote means – simply define an above the line vote for a column on the ballot as being equivalent to numbering that column 1,2,3,4,5… from top to bottom. Robson Rotation means that across all ballots this would be equivalent to a vote for the party, but expressing no particular preference for candidates within the party (which appears to be what the voter is trying to express).

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster 2:17 pm 04 Mar 09

Danman said :

Good to see on that ballot paper of Old Canberrans that The Party! Party! Party! and the Home Rule Ok party, the Sun Ripened Warm Tomato party and the surprise party are all there.

Being a young tacker in 1989 (11 y.o.) I scarecly remember these names, but its still funny none the less. People trying to get the novelty vote from the (politically) uneducated non party preferred voters I guess.

These “joke” parties were put onto the ballot paper by a fellow named Emil Bronuro (if I remember correctly). It resulted in changes to electoral laws that a party had to have at least 500 members to be listed on the ballot paper (similar laws were introduced in NSW after a mass of so-called “microparties” resulted in a tablecloth-sized ballot paper in 1999). Emil Bronuro ran for office again in the next election but the new laws meant he had to run under his own name as an independent in the ungrouped column.

R. Slicker R. Slicker 2:10 pm 04 Mar 09

caf said :

Single Member Electorates are an undemocratic rort designed to entrench the two-party system. The disadvantage of one large multi-member electorate (ie, that you end up with a few fruitcakes) is also its advantage (the makeup of the parliament more closely represents the vote of the electors).

A few multi-member electorates seems a good compromise – the bar is high enough that you have to have a decent level of real support to get in, but low enough that it doesn’t turn into a one-party whitewash.

The reason we were lumped with the original D’Hondt electoral system (and later Hare Clark) was the fear that with single member electorates Labor would win every seat and there would be no opposition or accountability. One Labor member said at the time “we are being penalised for being too popular”.

Primal Primal 1:50 pm 04 Mar 09

johnboy said :

No support for single member electorates?

Hell no. The one thing I really do like about the multi-member approach is that I get to vote for the government AND the thorns in it’s side.

jakez jakez 1:41 pm 04 Mar 09

I agree it is a good argument however I’m not sure it accords with reality. Consider US congressmen, corrupt up the yin yang and they have some pretty decent pay packets.

New Hampshire state house? I can’t recall a single story.

I will say though, if you create positions of power, people who want to wield that power will gravitate towards those positions. If JB is right then I’d happily change my stance.

The best method of reducing corruption is reducing the power of our representatives though.

housebound housebound 1:28 pm 04 Mar 09

johnboy said :

Also I’d rather have the elected politicians, who do face an uncertain future at the hands of the electorate, fat and happy.

Much better than lean, hungry, and on the make.

That is the best argument for politicians pay rises I have ever heard. It’s only a pity that greed begets greed.

tom-tom tom-tom 1:28 pm 04 Mar 09

ozpuck:

1. they still have to face the voting public; people aren’t stupid and wont vote for candidates who dont represent their values and aspirations. period. besides i dont think the idea of having the candidates who enjoy the most support from within the party being the most likely the parties representatives in parliament as necessarily a bad thing.

anyway, to an extent this happens already; for instance compare alistair coe to the other lib candidates in ginninderra; he was the one with the most factional support the most money and the most volunteers and he was the one who got elected.

2. this happens anyway, for example mark parton openly suggested his voters put mike crowther number 2; an example of ‘factional warlord power’ extending beyond his own party. and their are positive effects from directing prefs anyway; look in qld for example where pauline hanson is very unlikely to win a seat due to the refusal of major parties to direct prefs her way or in britain were the BNP is effectively marginalised by a refusal by both majors to direct preferences their way.

Ozpuck Ozpuck 1:04 pm 04 Mar 09

tom-tom said :

Above the line voting ensconces factional warlords.

que? how?

Two ways:

1. Factional warlords use the internal processes to pick the order for election. Sitting member spots are not guaranteed. People owe positions (or potential positions) to their internal support not the voters.

2. If the above the line included the right of the party to allocate preferences (as per the Senate) then factional warlords power may extend beyond their own party through preference dealings. That’s how Steve Fielding got elected.

One change that I’d suggest is greater recognition of the local government functions – perhaps it is joint Assembly – Community Council/resident Committees which deal with local geographic issues (ie Gunghalin specific stuff) rather than whole of Territory stuff. Yes I know that’s why you’re supposed to have local members but we’ve got the Nicholls anomaly and the South Woden anomaly that works against a whole of district approach.

miz miz 1:00 pm 04 Mar 09

How about a local council with one extra department for the State-type functions?
I hate self government as it has ruined Canberra. You only have to look outside.

tom-tom tom-tom 12:40 pm 04 Mar 09

Above the line voting ensconces factional warlords.

que? how? it’d possibly ensonce sitting members but thats in effect already done by the media and name recognition so i don’t think thats a valid argument anyway.

People too stupid to figure out the current ballot deserve to have their vote counted as informal

so if its okay to disenfranchise people on the basis of intelligence then is it okay to do it on the basis of other genetic factors? say skin colour? after all we only want the ‘right’ people exercising their right to vote, do we?

people actively seek out how to vote cards despite all the obstacles to their distribution because they want to vote on party lines suggests to me that they’d like an easy option to do this on the ballot, besides above the line voting doesn’t preclude you voting below the line.

Granny Granny 12:27 pm 04 Mar 09

Nicholls needs to be in the same electorate as the rest of Gungahlin.

johnboy johnboy 12:12 pm 04 Mar 09

Also I’d rather have the elected politicians, who do face an uncertain future at the hands of the electorate, fat and happy.

Much better than lean, hungry, and on the make.

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