Thursday, September 16, 2010

New State arguments 13 - too many politicians

One of the standard arguments against the creation of new states has always been that it will increase the number of politicians. This has always been a hard argument to attack, not on the facts but on the prejudices embodied in the claim.

Back in the 1920s, the New State Movement responded with a double barreled argument.

Barrel one was that each person would still vote for the same number of people; state members, federal members plus whatever system of local government was in place. Whether the actual number of politicians increased depended upon the number of members in the New England parliament as compared to those in the NSW parliament representing the same area.

Barrel two was the actual cost per head to taxpayers of our system of representative government. This was quite low, an insignificant amount in the totality of Government spend. It would remain tiny even if the number of members was greatly increased.

Today, we have a further argument.

In both state and federal houses, the number of electors per member has greatly increased compared to the past. If you accept, not all do, that a key role of the MP is to represent his or her electorate, then the increased size of electorates makes it harder for the MP to actually represent that electorate. Yes, we have increased resources available to MPs meaning that costs have risen, but actual representation has dropped for most electors.

You can argue whether or not this is a bad thing. I think that it is. Regardless of that, it is hard to mount an objective argument against new states on the grounds of increased number of politicians.           



James: I agree with all you say, but would add a third pointin rebuttal of those who are obsessed with the cost of the way we govern ourselves. The first line of attack would be to suggest that the Commonwealth should stop duplicating State functions and direct itself to peforming its own effectively. A logical extension of this approach would lead to opposition to any referendum designed to give the Commonwealth power to deal directly with local government, a recipe for further duplication of effort. Against this confusion, overlap and diffusion of responsibility, the cost of establishing additional government(s) for new state(s) is a mere bagatelle.

Jim Belshaw said...

I have to agree with you, Paul, but this one is difficult to get across. So many people simply think that the Commonwealth would do things better without either looking at lessons from experience or thinking through the principles involved.

Mark said...

A worthy subject for the "ready reckoner" Jim?

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree, Mark, but I am really struggling to complete before I go to Greece.

Greg said...

Jim, I don't know how anyone could possibly think that the Commonwealth in remote Canberra could ever possibly do a better job or be more responsive to local needs than our own state parliament. It defies logic.

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree, Greg, but many do. I think that the NSW's Goverment's delivery difficulties have added to the problems. We are paying a heavy price.