Tasmanian Times


McKim: Move to restore MP numbers welcome …

The Tasmanian Greens today welcomed the Premier’s announcement that he believed the number of MPs in the House of Assembly should be increased.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the simplest and most cost-effective way of increasing the number of MPs in the House would be to repeal the 1998 Bill which cut the numbers.

“Repealing the 1998 Bill would result in seven MPs being elected from each of the five existing electorates, which would result in better decision making and more access to MPs for the people who elect them. It would also ensure that the integrity of the Hare-Clark system is maintained,” Mr McKim said.

“There is no need for a long and expensive inquiry. We should just bite the bullet and restore the House to the way it was.”

“In 1998 the Greens were the only Party in the Parliament to vote against the disastrous cut to MPs’ numbers, and at the time we warned that it would impact upon the ability of the Parliament to do its job and reduce the quality of democratic representation for the community.”

“Over a decade later the recognition by all three Parties that the cut was a mistake that must be fixed is a welcome development.”

What Premier Bartlett said:

Premier David Bartlett said today he had asked State cabinet to agree to investigate ways of increasing the numbers in the House of Assembly.

“Cabinet agreed that Attorney General Lara Giddings will report back to cabinet next week on options.

“Previously I was of the view that a 25 member House of Assembly was large enough but the election result has changed my mind.

“I believe too that there has been a significant shift in community attitudes on the issue.

“While we have been able to put together a talented and effective cabinet including the State’s first Greens minister it is clear that with only 10 seats in the chamber the Government has too few backbenchers to meet the needs of the community and the parliament.

“Tasmanians expect to have easy and ready access to their political representatives and a larger parliament will improve that.

“It will also mean that incoming Governments will have a larger number of members from which to draw a cabinet and membership of parliamentary committees.”

Mr Bartlett also announced that parliament would resume on May 4 to deal with the issue of confidence in the new government.

“I expect that debate will take up most of the sitting time for that week.

“Parliament will resume on June 8 with question time at 10am and then the formal opening in the afternoon.

“The budget will be brought down on June 17.

“The Legislative Council will resume on May 4 for a quorum call.”

Tonight: Restore the House to 35 members; HERE

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  1. alan taylor

    April 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    one can play games with electoral figures until the chickens come home to roost.

    it might be claimed, for instance, that the new NSW seat of sydney (overlayed by the federal seat of sydney) is only 14 square kilometres and, when local councillors at taken into consideration, is ~ per kilometre ~ one of the most overgoverned acreages on the face of the planet.

    compared with the tasmanian seat of lyons which, at 32,910 kms, with one federal member and (currently) five state representatives, plus a smattering of local councillors, is desperately undergoverned by comparison.

    most people tend to forget that parliament and local councillors not only represent people but are responsible for the maintenance of the land, water, sea and air that electors live on and near, for any transport systems across it and so forth.. in short, the integrity of the relationship between citizens and their environment.

    statistics and arguments about representatives per head of population (or acreage) tend to become meaningless compared with the much more important issue touched on by julian russell (#16). it’s the quality of governance that matters. whether a people need more ~ or fewer ~ representatives to achieve good government must remain at the centre of those arguments, as must the nature of the relationship between the representatives and those they represent, and the mutual responsibilities entailed in representation.

    unfortunately, banal arguments about figures and applied formulae have their attractions for some, and you can appreciate why. they seduce the intellectually lazy. any fool can work out R/vpe. it’s simple maths and easily understood. [for those unfamiliar with the theorem i’ve just made up, it’s the number of representatives divided by the number of voters per electorate]

    but arguments over what constitutes good governance, and how it can ~ or should ~ be achieved can never be reduced to formulae. something approaching consensus on the matter can only be arrived at by clear, informed, concise, reasoned articulation of principles, and a rational exchange about the economic, social and cultural virtues we expect our representatives to pursue.

    conclusions cannot be arrived at by applying an instrument such as Gv = R/vpe where values of Gv smaller than .0007 are ‘good, and values greater than .0007 are ‘bad’, and restricting the argument to whether raising or lowering the numerical value of vpe achieves better or worse government. [the more astute reader will have already worked out that Gv is ‘governance’]

    it’s the same as deducing the quality of life by analysing GDP ~ although statiticians still delight in such flights of fancy.

  2. Tom Nilsson

    April 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Tasmania has 40 members of the State Parliament and 17 members of the Federal Parliament, totalling 57, for a population of 505,000 that equates to one politician per 8,860 people.

    If we increase the Tasmanian Parliament by an extra 14 (10 lower house and 4 upper house) that will give us one politician per 7,113 people.

    I would be interested to know the cost per person – I don’t think we are getting value for money!

  3. Julian Russell

    April 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    What Alan said. Refreshing to read a well thought out analysis rather than an knee jerk reaction about the cost of government. I’d rather be spending more on governance so long as the return on investment is good. Whether that’s the case or not is probably up for debate.

  4. alan taylor

    April 27, 2010 at 1:28 am

    there is an obvious reason why tasmanians will always have more politicians per head of population, and why the cost of government per head of population will always be greater.

    if we want the same range of governance and legislative service for each citizen as other states enjoy, then, because of our small population, it will invariably mean we pay more per head. that is a consequence of the situation i detailed in post #13.

    it maths is simple. if you want a state marine board, then 500,000 tasmanians are going to have to pay more, per head, than are the nearly 7 million people of NSW.

    if you want a parks and wildlife department, with a responsible minister, bureaucrats to run it, repleat with field staff in tasmania, then half a million people are going to have to pay more per head than are the 7 million people of NSW.

    and in that particular instance, with far more parks and conservation areas per head of population in tasmania than NSW, tasmanians will pay vastly more per head than elsewhere.

    there is, of course the option of dispensing with marine boards, planning boards, departments of wildlife, conservation, parks, etc..(the list is long). however, despite a popular mythology to the contrary, the consequent under-governance would result in a place very few tasmanians would want to live in.

    on the other hand, there is a huge upside to our comparative over-government. we never experience the extreme highs of any economic boom. a proportionally larger civil service cushions against such highs.

    but then, it also cushions against extreme recessions, as has been witnessed during the last world wide economic downturn. in comparison to a comparatively undergoverned place like the united states, we experienced nothing like their downturn here in tasmania.

    many consider that our upper house is an irrelevance. quite often, it is. but if it was dispensed with, as it is in queensland, there is the every-present danger of a repeat of the disgraceful bejlke-peterson years where there were no checks and balances to a unicameral legislature that had become corrupt.

    a ‘saving in costs’ is the most puerile, ill-informed and dangerous argument for a reduction in democratic government. we need look no further for an example than in our own backyard. that argument was advanced to reduce the number of representatives in the house of assembly from 35 to 25. there has been not one thing to recommend it. it didn’t even result in a decrease in the cost of government.

  5. mike seabrook

    April 26, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    lets have the comparison numbers for all states

    cost of state government per voter or population.

    why should tasmanians have to pay more per head of population for the state government administration.

    should cut the cloth to suit.

  6. alan taylor

    April 26, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    the argument that tasmania only has the population of brisbane municipality ~ or canterbury-bankstown in sydney ~ and could therefore be run by a legislature of comparable size to those councils is completely fallacious.

    for a start, those municipal areas are controlled by a further level of government over-and-above their respective councils ~ their state governments.

    furthermore, they are compact areas with high populations. this means that their councils have a very high income comparative to the services they have to provide.

    neither do those councils have to provide health and education services to their populations ~ the two biggest drains on a state government’s coffers and two huge areas of administrative responsibility for any state.

    the whole argument is a furphy. the size of the state (in either size or population) bears no relation to the number of legislative areas that need to be covered by a state government.

    victoria, at 2512kms, has a smaller coastline than does tasmania. the fact that western australia has a coastline of 20,871kms does not mean the job of minister for marine parks and coastal areas in WA is five times as big as victoria’s. the legislation necessary to cover the administration of any coastal area is roughly similar.

    the minister for education in victoria carries out near-identical responsibilties to the minister for education in tasmania; when it comes to curriculum, determining teacher-student ratios and such things as retention rates, size doesn’t matter. the complexities of post compulsory education and its relationship to compulsory education is the same ‘amount’ of responsiblity for each minister. the only difference is in the number of departmental officers required to carry out the law regarding education.

    the problem for tasmania becomes glaringly obvious when you realise that david bartlett was not only premier but (because of the limited number of sitting members available to be ministers) he was the minister for education as well ~ possibly one reason why the recent so-called ‘reforms’ involving the polytechnic failed so miserably. bartlett’s talents (whatever they may have been) were spread far too thin and he was incapable of overseeing both responsibilities.

    in victoria, bronwyn pike is minister for education and the related ministry of skills and workforce participation. victoria can afford that luxury because of the size of their parliament. it has nothing to do with the size of the electorate or the size of the state.

    in victoria, peter batchelor is minister for energy and resources, and the arts.

    in tasmania, brian green is minister for energy and resources, primary industries and water,local government, planning, racing and gaming, as well as minister for veterans’ affairs.

    enough said.

    over the last four years in tasmania, no minister ~ i repeat, No minister ~ has distinguished themselves in any ministry. even if they’d had the ability, it would have been impossible.

    the number of people in the electorate is neither here nor there. what is important is the number of legislative areas that need to be covered by individual ministers.

  7. Brian

    April 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    #8 – bet you the Green Laborials will vote for the repeal of the Act but retain the salary $$’s. The Green Laborials are as greedy as anyone.

  8. mary

    April 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Timing of this is priceless. Someone please ask Nick to be honest and transparent and detial fully what bargaining chips he traded for his participation in Government. Or does openness and transparency only apply when you are outside Government looking in? No inquiry, we should just do it! Where is the say of the people in that?

  9. Julian Russell

    April 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    #2 comparisons with Brisbane Council are a little wrongheaded IMHO, as the state government has far more responsibilities than even a large council (e.g. national parks, rural land management, the judicial and hospital systems (for now)).

    Repealing the act that changed the numbers does seem like the simplest approach to get a workable parliament again, notwithstanding the good arguments about the legislative council above. Trying to reform the legislative council as part of the process does seem like a good way to kill and chance of change….

    #7 – I assume you’re handing a bunch of powers to the Federal government?

  10. Disturbed Voter

    April 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Re #4, if my memory serves me correctly, the 40% salary increase was justified in order to offset the increased ministerial workload of the reduced ministry… Indeed, the workload will not increase with increased numbers in parliament. The work may be delegated to a larger number of parliamentarians, thus diluting the workload.

    40%… Never forget!

  11. mike seabrook

    April 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    cut parliamentary pay by the est. 40% they increased it by – forget it

    sorry – they are “extremely greedy”.

  12. Counsellor

    April 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    The State Government should be abolished and a new structure of local government established for service delivery. The almgamation of councils under the current model is simply a way of the State removing local decision making as they have done so corruptly with Forestry. Academic studies of council amalgamations have emphatically demonstrated little or no gains in efficiencies and less democratic processes with forced council amalgamations.

  13. James Williamson

    April 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    To talk about re-structuring the Tasmanian parliament without reforming the Legislative council is reprehensible. Surely simultaneous elections for both houses is needed. The current situation where only 2 members in the Upper House are elected at any one time is blatantly undemocratic. Why can’t we use the Hare-Clarke system for both.If there was proportional representation in both the Houses, this would give the Greens the opportunity to represent minority views in Tasmania, without de-stabilising the government. By holding the balance of power in the Legislative Council rather than the House Of Assembly, I contend that The Greens could affect policy outcomes in a much more effective way.

  14. Rob

    April 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    40% ? What was that all about? I forget.

  15. Justa Bloke

    April 26, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Re #1, I’m one who has never forgotten. They must now take a 40% pay cut, as the excuse for the raise was that the reduction to 25 MHAs made it affordable.

  16. phill Parsons

    April 26, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Good grief, common sense. Will return to the past this escape to the Upper House and another 4 members appear in this colonial anachronism.

    Easy to do downstairs but getting the upper house to abolish itself will require a feat of tremendous skill or it to show outstand incompetence.

    Was it luck when the lower hosuse was refurbished that 40 seats were installed or a plan for joint sittings.

    Will Local Goverment take the hint and voluntarily amalgamate bringing scale to their operations or is Tasmania stuck with government as a job creation program like Greece.

  17. max

    April 26, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I disagree with the proposal for increasing the numbers in the House of Assemble. We have a population of 500,000 and a council such as the Brisbane Council would run Tasmania with ease. At present we elect people with out qualification to run our State and then hire people to tell them how to do it, why not cut out the politicians all together. We may well need the Federal politicians to represent us in Camberra but a look at history shows that the cost of our parliament far out weighs any benefits

  18. Brian

    April 26, 2010 at 1:51 am

    40%…. never forget !!

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