Helsinki and Canberra: A Brief Follow-Up

As a follow-up to last night’s piece on the Finnish vs. Australian electoral systems, I was asked if I thought Australia was over-governed.

My short answer is; kind of.
The long answer is; more poorly-organised than over-governed.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I have the absolute power to reorganise the Federation as I see fit; here’s what I’d do.

First, I’d redraw the boundaries of the States and Territories; there’d be more of them, and they’d be drawn according to both the current population distribution, and likely corridors of population growth. According to, well, everyone I know who lives there, the State Government of New South Wales frankly only really cares about an area centred on Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong; so let’s let them focus on that, and shear away the rest, redistributing it based on regional areas of focus. Same deal for all the rest (having Albury-Wodonga split asunder by a state border is rather silly, no?), with the possible exception of Tasmania.

Second, the municipal councils would all go. All of them. Every one. What would replace them is the ACT’s system – where the territory government has the functions, responsibilities, and powers (ignore the federal relation for a moment) of a state government and of a municipal ones. The regional government would look after e.g., both garbage collection and education. It seems to work quite smoothly in Canberra.

Third, to ensure that outlying areas aren’t neglected, each one of the legislatures of these new regional governments would be elected on the same system as the ACT’s – the Hare-Clark proportional system, with several multi-member electorates ensuring that all parts of the region have a voice in the legislature.

At the Federal level, the apportionment of the House of Representatives would be the same – single-member constituencies allocated by population, with each region getting a certain minimum (at least two). The number of Senators would need to be recalculated, but I’d either keep the principle behind the Senate the same (equal representation for each region so that the lower-population ones don’t get screwed) or I’d make it a single nation-wide multi-member constituency. Voting systems would be unchanged (I like the single transferable vote as well as instant run-off voting), as would the means of forming government.

An important caveat: this is just something I’ve sketched up in notes on my phone during lunch, a thought exercise. I’d need to do quite a bit of research to check how feasible it would be (political considerations aside), and what the effects on the economy would be.

This is, of course, utter fantasy; the States will never consent to being carved up like this (well, Tasmania might – because it gets to watch), and if I recall the Constitution correctly, they have to agree to any such thing. But I doubt I’m the only one who has considered this idea.