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Changes suggested to electoral system

By GnT 18 June 2007 8

There’s an interesting opinion piece by Jenny Stewart on the Canberra Times website today about the ACT government’s electoral design. The point is made that 17 MLAs is too few, and that the system of 3 electorates with 5, 7 and 5 members is silly when it splits Gunghalin and Woden right down the middle. The issue was also discussed on RiotACT recently.

The problem is any changes to the system have to made by the federal government, and there’s a fat chance of getting anything progressive passed by John Howard.

My opinion is that we do need more politicians to do the work here in Canberra, and more members per electorate would see more minor parties and independents getting elected leading to better checks and balances.

What’s Your opinion?

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Changes suggested to electoral system
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simbo 11:57 pm 19 Jun 07

The advantage of geographic proximity is, theoretically, that services specifially within that area can be specifically represented by specific people (i.e. if you want to ask “I want improvements to my local shops”, say, you approach a smaller subset of the MLAs, rather than all of ’em).

Economically, it is, of course, far better to just service one central area for everybody to come to (due to economies of scale) – but it’s often wildly impractical for a lot of citizens to travel all the way into a central point.

frontrow 7:26 pm 19 Jun 07

Is there any significant advantage to voters by knobbling an otherwise adequate proportional representation system with multiple electorates?

If we must divide people into smaller units, what is so special about geographic proximity?

Al 9:26 am 19 Jun 07

Got my vote BG! Banish the states I say. Make ACT that bit bigger so it takes in the entire geo-social catchment and gets sustainable. Say up to the Hume at Yass (connection to the No 1 highway) and out to Bungendore. Then model the other regions along the same lines. You’re already almost there with Brisbane & Gold Coast City Council, and there is now talk of forcing amalgamation of Sunshine Coast into one. And so on.

bigred 7:26 pm 18 Jun 07

In the post Howard environment we might get a decent republic debate, including some thought on a two tier system of government. That was we might get proper good government rather than wannabes such as the current members for brindabella.

LG 4:38 pm 18 Jun 07

Certainly the current structure isn’t ideal. The current number of Ministers isn’t enough to adequately deal with their numerous portfolios.

One option is to increase the number of Ministers (and the Assembly). The other options is to reduce and focus the number of portfolios (this brings us back to the local Council model).

Given the lack of talent currently in the ACT Assembly – I don’t see how adding more of them would be beneficial to the community. Although for the sake of a minority government, I could be pursuaded to change my mind.

What the ACT Government needs to do is reduce its workload. Try to leverage ‘national’ issues through our Members of Parliment and Senate.

Cut the crap and deal with important local issues (like roads and infrastructure) and leave the national politics alone. Stanhope should not be appearing in national newspapers.

jemmy 4:18 pm 18 Jun 07

I agree GnT, esp re the checks and balances.

Electors elect on issues and personality. Management skills are unknown and aren’t discovered until later when it’s too late to change. Currently, you could easily get a government where only 2 or 3 people have any ability to manage. ( I suspect that’s what we’re seeing at the moment with Stanhope taking over those portfolios.) There is no way those 2 or 3 people can get into any depth in their portfolios as well as stay on top of day-to-day stuff.

We need extra pollies to provide depth and take up the slack for those reps who don’t have the skills to run a portfolio.

Al 4:04 pm 18 Jun 07

There was also a very good op-ed piece in the Saturday CT that pointed out that 3 7-member electorates are what is really needed. The reason was that the 7-member electorates have proven the only way to ensure that independents and small party people get elected, and therefore we would be much more likely to have a minority government. I have said before that this is a requirement for a single-house government – the incumbents were given a majority government, at the cost of democratic accountability for the ACT.
Given the sound arguments given in that piece, I would support the 3×7 model.

DarkLady: I don’t subscribe to the less politicians is always good agrument. Whether you care to admit it or just don’t realise, elected members are some of the hardest working people there are in our communities, and they put everything on the line for the ‘privilege’ to serve.

Running the ACT is a big task, and there clearly aren’t enough people to do what needs doing.

However, as a former Councillor, I support your point for running them more like local government. Where the ACT model stumbles is the application of Ministers. This puts [almost] complete control of a portfolio in the hands of one person who may or may not be effective, have the required vision/experience, or just plain be a jerk. And they don’t seem to have any requirement to consult or cooperate with each other…

Councils tend to have portfolio committees, for which the Chair would replace the Minister, but decisionmaking is a cooperative process. Better I think.

DarkLadyWolfMother 3:08 pm 18 Jun 07

My opinion is that we need the same or less politicians, but change the government style to that of a local council.

More politicians means more money spent on them, their perks and their staffers. I can’t see much gain.

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