Quick Post: 3 things we’d need to do before we could become a #Republic #auspol

I don’t understand Republicans.  How could anybody have that much passion, anger, and motivation to change something which works rather well?   It’d be like if the union movement hadn’t been terribly concerned by working conditions but had instead got amazingly vitriolic about how people were paid with $50 notes instead of two $20s and a $10.

So here’s my list of three things which we could more fruitfully spend our time debating.

1. The States

Why haven’t we abolished them yet?  Sir Isaac Isaacs knew they were a bad idea when Australia Federated.  We were supposed to become one Australia, discarding the old divisions between the colonies.  Instead, the powerful people at Federation had no interest in losing their powerbase so we have states where once were colonies.

It is imbecilic.  They can’t raise enough money on their own, which is why there’s semi-regular corruption inquiries into the States.  They are a festering sore of inefficient taxes and administration.  They create competing power structures which reduces the capacity of Australians to get the services they require.

But, worst of all, they entrench of inequality into our nation.  First, through the Senate.  Every person’s vote should be counted the same.  Instead, the Senate is created to stop the more populous States from dominated the less populous.  Note that, if the states didn’t exist, this would not be a freaking problem.  People in the territories had to get permission from the States to have representation in the Senate.  When the majority of our least privileged Australians live in the Northern Territory, it is an utter disgrace that they get such poor representation.  The Northern Territorians have one Senator per 117,000 people.  Compare this with Tasmania, which has one Senator per 42,000.    Utter, utter joke.

The question of the States should be resolved prior to going to a Republic.  We really don’t want the situation in the US where we get bizarrely political fiefdoms in every state competing with the Federal government.

2. The Senate

Even if the States have to stay, we can still do something about our hideously awful Senate which is a magnet for kooks and weirdoes.  How is it even theoretically possible for Cory Bernardi to have legislative power in any civilised country?  Ibidem, Sarah Hanson-Young.

Instead of being the State’s House, it’s morphed into the Party House.  If you’re a sufficiently well-connected party hack, you’ll be parachuted into the Senate where you can spend your days whining and opining like an entitled adolescent.  You require no qualifications in order to be a Senator, yet the only qualification needed to interrogate senior public servants at Estimates is to be a current Senator.  Senate Estimates has been trashed by senators from both sides of politics over the past few years.  Hanson-Young colluded with the Ombusdman, Allen Asher, in order to make political points.  Godwin Grech colluded with Coalition senators in order to make similar political points… albeit with forged documents.

They leap like lords but are blind to their ridiculousness.  They’re neither representative of the general population, nor are they individuals of particular merit.  How easy it would be for us to accept a Senate that was not representative, but which gathered a group of extremely talented, insightful, excellent people (like, for example, the High Court).  How easy it would be for us to accept a Senate that was not particularly intelligent or skilled, but which accurately reflected a cross-section of the community (like, for example, selecting a Senate at random from the electoral list).  But a Senate which does neither should be discarded.

3. Section 51 of the Constitution

When Sam Griffith’s beard sat down to write the Constitution, it outlined the powers which the Federal Parliament would be able to legislate.  Despite being an excellent and pioneering beard, Section 51 was freaking written in the 1800s, guys.  It’s out of date.  It no longer fits with our modern expectations.  Thus we get the sheer insanity of medical registration in Australia, for example, where each state needs to pass a version of the National Law (because the Commonwealth can’t just create a national model off its own power).  It’s completely bonkers.

Those who aren’t eyeballs deep in politics expect health and education to be national priorities.  Instead, they’re left to the least competent parliaments to manage.  Every ten years or so, we should have a revision of the powers listed there to make sure they’re in line with community expectations.  It’s only a matter of time before we’ll need to list the Internet or Bronies or something.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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