Friday, May 28, 2010

New State arguments 5 - the power of imagination

One of the remarkable things about the spread of new state agitation in the 1920s was the way it encouraged new ideas. Once you propose fundamental changes to existing systems, then you are free to develop alternative ideas in their place. Not all those ideas were sensible, but together they provided an alternative view.

The same is true today. Do we want rotating Parliaments, how should Government be structured, what do we want our Government to focus on, how do we capture the talents of our area?

At a purely personal level, one of my frustrations has been that as a New Englander I really have no way of contributing directly to the area that I love.

Assume that I want to use my skills in public policy and public administration to benefit the North? How can I do it?

If I join the NSW Public Service and want to stay in the area, then I am locked into lower level positions. If I go to Sydney, then I am locked into a system that makes it hard for me to focus on my regional interests. I cannot in all conscience argue a New England position when I have to take broader state interests into account, including the positions of my political masters. The most I can hope to do, and this is actually not a small thing, is to ensure that New England is not actively disadvantaged.

Now that we have a revival in new state interest, now that we are tracking in towards the possible reformation of the Movement with the aim of forcing another referendum, we can again think of what we might want New England to look like.

As in the 1920s, some of the ideas are not going to be sensible or doable. But they do give us a chance to look afresh, freed from the bounds imposed by increasingly rigid existing structures.        


Mark said...

If there was one thing that I would like to see, that is Newcastle NOT being the capital. We could do it like South Africa and have capital cities for specific purposes. Armidale would be the legislative capital of New England, Newcastle the commercial centre and various other towns and cities as administrative hubs. True decentralisation of services so that there would be no duplication of other state capital cities.

It will also need to be a very efficient form of public service as this will be on everybody's lips. Less population = less beauracracy and less duplication of federal services.

I'd love to see/read something from yesteryear on the proposed creation of new state law and government services as this is personal for me being a public servant.

Greg said...

Mark, I agree that we don't want to see Newcastle simply substituted for Sydney and repeat the mistakes of NSW all over again.

But Newcastle, as New England's largest city (1/3 of the total northern population) and by far the most important centre of trade, industry and commerce must have some special status or recognition. It is simply too important to risk losing the vote there yet again. The northern regions must not be swamped by the sheer weight of population of the Hunter, but the Hunter must also feel that it's needs are finally being recognised and met.

I don't know what the answer is, but we must find a compromise satisfactory to all regions. We must all feel that we are far better off under New England home rule (regardless of where the administrative capital is) than under Macquarie Street rule.

I would like to see recognition of all the major cities of the north and networks established connecting and servicing them all. It has to be obvious that we will all be better off.

Mark said...

Greg, I agree that the city commands special status and this shouldn't be ignored. A majority vote here alone in the Lower Hunter would turn the tables and could be the very region that kick starts a large scale movement.

My reason for not having Newcastle as a capital is that many in outer areas may see it as a smaller version of Sydney. This perception will need to be addressed. You're absolutely correct about finding a compromise.

Anonymous said...

As somebody who is new to the idea of a New England State I think it makes perfect sense for Newcastle to be the capital simply for the fact of numbers re population and infrastructure(however little macquarie street has given us) however obviously the regions needs must be catered for this could be achieved by ensuring that their representation in any parliament is significantly greater than that of Newcastle and the Hunter.

Jim Belshaw said...

The difficulty with Newcastle as capital, anon, is that those outside Newcastle fear that this will simply replicate NSW problems. While various capitals have been discussed, Armidale has been the traditional favourite simply because it is centraland poses no threat.

The difficulty with an electoral system weighted to the regions is that it runs up against the so-called one vote, one value philosophy.

Newcastle doesn't need to be the capital to benefit. It will do so simply because it is New England's big metro centre. So, for example, it would automatically be featured in tourism promotion; it's airport would become New England's main airport; and so on.