Boundary changes expose neglect
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.
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.