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The Forum > Article Comments > Time for new numbers for the ACT > Comments

Time for new numbers for the ACT : Comments

By George Williams, published 18/11/2008

The members of the ACT Assembly have one of the hardest government jobs in the country, straddling two tiers of our federal system.

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Maybe we've been inadvertantly given the seed for a more fundamental review of government in Australia.

Maybe the powers relating to education policy, health policy and industrial relations should be ceded to the Federal government; the ACT should bury its Bill of Rights and get out of the euthanasia and gay marriage business completely allowing it to focus purely on delivering services to the people of the ACT.

Just perhaps this model can be replicated in the NT and then Tasmania and inexorably we'll move towards two levels of government in Australia not the three that we were given through historic circumstances that hinder our progress and duplicate responsibility.

Australia needs fewer politicians, not more.
Posted by Nigel from Jerrabomberra, Tuesday, 18 November 2008 11:57:46 AM
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George William's article and the comment from Nigle both have merit. But I think that the primary problem with governance in the ACT is that Canberra is a city, and should be governed as such, with a mayor and city council, and with powers which are appropriate to a local government.
Until the states are abolished and replaced with a number of more powerful local councils, and a more appropriate division of powers between the LGA's and the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth should assume the health, education and industrial relations powers in the ACT, and other similar powers usually reserved to a state.
I have read or seen comments that if and when the Northern Territory becomes a state, that the ACT should as well!
That is simply silly.
The sooner we ditch the federation and our present constitution, and replace them with a workable constitution framed for the 21st century, and a national government plus 35 or so "county" governments, we will continue to wander in the wilderness.
Posted by consRmad, Tuesday, 18 November 2008 3:42:16 PM
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Three tiers of government is a bit of a joke and the need for some major nationwide reforms are constantly put on the back burner.

As for the ACT, Canberrans voted against self-government twice and yet it was foisted upon us. Democracy at work. Unlike Tasmania and the NT whose populations are smaller, the infrastructure necessary to support Canberra is for a much smaller area of land; however there is some merit in the idea that you are more likely to get effective Ministers if their respective portfolios are not overwhelmingly unwieldy.
Posted by pelican, Tuesday, 18 November 2008 9:28:24 PM
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Canberra needs a city council, not a legislative assembly. It needs direct government by the national government of the day, not by the government's employees.
Our government should deal with garbage, roads, sewerage, basic community services ... and nothing else. That's why Canberrans twice rejected "self-government". It was forced on us, and we're paying a high price.
The posturing of our Legislative Assembly and its multiple ministers is beyond belief. They promulgate policies on euthanasia, gay marriage, nuclear whatever, immigration, whales (we're a long way from the sea), global warming and the rest: all the prerogative of the national government.
The ACT's proportional representation system means that Liberal and Labor have to accommodate the latest bugbears of the Greens, who have never had majority support, even here. So we get a NIMBY/BANANA mindset, hostile to anything that might upset the politically hypercorrect ... anything that might add a bit of zing to the place, anything that might make Canberra prosperous or interesting.
We need to boogie, but instead we get a statue of Al Grassby, fer chrissakes, and repeated "multicultural" festivals in the least multicultural city in Australia, while our politburo can't even organise basic mental health services, and just keeps jacking up the rates. We get anguished arguments about the damaging 'social' consequences of hosting Summernats (for non-Canberrans: the national hotrod show), which brings thousands of young Australians to their capital. Gee: they might even visit the War Memorial, or Parliament House, lowering the tone of the place. Somebody wants to run the national speedboat championships on Lake Burley Griffin, one weekend of the year, and sixteen dozen little 'committees' and 'community groups' kybosh the idea because it might upset the delicate ecology of ... wait for it ... an engineered cement pond.
This place is the national capital. It should reflect those aspects of Australia's political traditions that most Australians agree on, plus the preferences of the party in national power. Why hand the development of the national shopfront to the shop assistants? Most of us working Canberrans, by virtue of our jobs, have enough power already.
Posted by Parser, Tuesday, 18 November 2008 9:48:19 PM
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An interesting set of conundrums (plural) that seem to indicate support for the wider argument …to abolish States governments and place their functions under one (Federal (?)) system. Your argument clearly shows that the current system is managerially absurd and functionally disadvantaged. Reality in small parliaments shows that a critical population mass that and thereby number of ‘representatives’ to be able to justify a state government. As in almost everything else critical mass is the essential determinant. When combined with PARSER’s assessment and the old dictum ‘all politics are local” it makes sense that what the ACT needs City Council not a debilitated quasi statehood.

To complete my heretical view I would suggest that people consider the following,
The wider issue best expressed by paraphrasing the old IT saying “To err is human but to really screw it up you need political parties and outside funding.” Both these I am convinced has helped to pervert democracy at the sharp end. One needs only to look at the nature and cost and nature of these unelected power groups’ influenced campaigns comparing them to those that aren’t. The campaign in the ACT was prohibitively expensive, ideological driven, both nasty and negative.
Is that democracy? Not by any definition of it that I’ve read. Local elections are about local issues by local people not a coagulations of septic power gnomes who abuse ideology to impose their limited oligarchic/corporate view of life in communities.

I would also agree with the abolition of ‘how to vote cards’ and the intimidatory scrum of trolls outside polling booths (for all elections at any level).
Posted by examinator, Wednesday, 19 November 2008 12:42:35 PM
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