Bound­ary changes ex­pose ne­glect

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

We could eas­ily ac­cept of­fi­cial pro­pos­als to ex­pand the fed­eral elec­toral divi­sion of Mallee as sim­ple evo­lu­tion and a mat­ter of course based on longterm pop­u­la­tion drift.

The re­al­ity is, Vic­to­ri­ans should be dis­ap­pointed, em­bar­rassed and con­cerned that an elec­torate al­ready cov­er­ing a third of the state has to ex­pand under statute to meet voter-num­ber re­quire­ments.

There are sim­ply not enough vot­ers, at less than 100,000, and in gen­eral peo­ple, to jus­tify the divi­sion ex­ist­ing as it stands.

Have a look at a map of Aus­tralia. One of the great ben­e­fits of Vic­to­ria is that in a coun­try as ex­pan­sive as ours, it is rel­a­tively small but at the same time brim­ful of nat­u­ral as­sets.

This means it should be im­mune from the many tyranny-of-dis­tance is­sues long con­fronting some of our neigh­bour­ing states.

Then have a look at a map of Vic­to­ria’s pro­posed fed­eral elec­toral di­vi­sions, fun­da­men­tally based on pop­u­la­tion, and it is easy to see there is some­thing ter­ri­bly askew.

The great prob­lem for peo­ple liv­ing in Mallee is that de­spite an ex­pan­sion of bound­aries, they will still have only one rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Fed­eral Par­lia­ment. Re­gard­less of the ef­forts of their sit­ting mem­ber, des­tined to waste hours trav­el­ling, it is go­ing to be hard for them to get ap­pro­pri­ate and ef­fec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

In other words, in­di­vid­u­als in our part of the world will have a tougher job get­ting their voice heard in Can­berra.

Warn­ings

The likely ex­pan­sion of Mallee elec­toral bound­aries will mean peo­ple in Kaniva and Eden­hope will be vot­ing on is­sues along­side oth­ers on the out­skirts of Bendigo as well as Mil­dura and Mary­bor­ough.

Un­for­tu­nately with the new bound­aries, Stawell will lose a fed­eral as­so­ci­a­tion with its Wim­mera home and in­stead be part of Wan­non, which has its south­ern bor­der on the coast and shares lit­tle com­mon in­ter­est. How do you gain any sort of con­sen­sus for com­mu­ni­ties that all have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties and needs? Not eas­ily, that’s for sure. If there weren’t enough al­ready, there will be many lonely cries in the wilder­ness.

The an­nounce­ment of pro­posed bound­ary changes pro­vides weight to warn­ings of a seem­ingly hands-off ap­proach to man­ag­ing Vic­to­ria’s pop­u­la­tion growth.

Con­cerns are far from new and what they re­flect is an in­abil­ity of suc­ces­sive Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ments to con­sider pop­u­la­tion drift se­ri­ously enough to take de­ci­sive ac­tion. It adds up to gross ne­glect. Sadly Vic­to­ria, de­spite grow­ing in pop­u­la­tion, is shrink­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally and is un­bal­anced.

De­vel­op­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties is the key to build­ing self-sus­tain­ing pop­u­la­tions be­yond the sub­ur­ban out­skirts of Mel­bourne and es­tab­lished pro­vin­cial cities.

The last ma­jor pe­riod of op­por­tu­nity that lured peo­ple to the re­gions came dur­ing the Vic­to­rian gold rush.

It was such a pow­er­ful stim­u­lant that it took pop­u­la­tion spread out of the hands of de­ci­sion-mak­ers and forced them to ac­knowl­edge a need for and to im­prove re­gional ser­vices.

Surely we’re ma­ture enough in 2018 to look be­yond the need of a gold rush to cre­ate re­gional in­cen­tives that drive pop­u­la­tion growth.

More peo­ple spread across Vic­to­ria will al­low the whole state, not just our heav­ily ur­banised ar­eas, to pros­per.

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