Wednesday, October 06, 2004

It's time - to end the Tasmanian gerrymander

When two-bit cretins like Federal Labor MP Dick Adams can effectively hold their party to ransom, by threatening to go independent unless they get their way on logging (a few days before the election, it's too late for the party to now dump them) , you have to wonder what is wrong with the Tasmanian electoral process. How do such nutbags get in, and (presumably) stay in?

As it turns out, the fault does not, for the most part, rest with Tasmanian voters. Under the Constitution, they are given a vote than is worth about double (for the House of Reps), and five to ten times (for the Senate) almost any other Australian's vote. The exact mechanics of this are set out in this excellent Op Ed by Judith Brett (Hallelujah, Judith - for quite a few years, I thought we'd lost you, as you seemed to have become a full-time John Howard tragic in the same way that Howard himself is a cricketing tragic).

As noted, Tasmanian voters themselves can't be too much-blamed for the disproportionate serving size of their votes, and the unhealthy consequences here for MP calibre. If you were chronically over-fed too, I bet you'd end up choosing sludge from the all-you-can-eat dessert bar, every time.

Judith Brett recommends a referendum to remove the House of Reps part of the Tasmanian gerrymander (because it is enshrined in the Constitution, it can't be changed, any other way). I agree, except I can't see the point of doing things by half measure here, and so Tasmania's senator entitlement should also be pared back to its population pro-rata only (as are the two territories, more or less).

Now that would give something for Dick Adams to whinge about - if he could find a single Australian outside Tasmania who cares, that is.

Update 7 October 2004

Oops! As letter writer Patrick Emerton (assistant lecturer, faculty of law, Monash University) points out in today’s Age, section 128 of the Constitution contains a nasty little poison pill. No referendum which changes any state's guaranteed parliamentary representation can succeed unless and until a majority of voters in that state pass the referendum (in addition to all the other referendum hoopla).

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