Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Originally posted on Australian Politics 2

The VEC is at the moment considering submissions for the Redivision of the Victorian upper house due to the introduction of Proportional Representation in time for the November 2006 state election. There are 88 Legislative Assembly (lower house) seats which will be divided into 8 upper house districts called regions, of 11 Assembly seats each. Each will elect 5 members who serve one parliamentary term rather than two, the quota required for election will be 16 point 6 recurring % (16.7%) and the method will be similiar to that used for the Senate.

The outcome of this is some Green MLCs in parliament, they polled very well in the last state election in 2002, despite only polling 1% of primary votes at the 1999 state election. The previous method of upper house elections was 44 members from 22 single member seats of 4 assembly districts each, electing one member each election. Thus denying all but the occasional independent a seat. If the Greens significantly top their achievements of last election, then they might also pull some inner city seats such as Northcote, Brunswick and Richmond. To read more visit this link.

The ALP and Green Submissions

Now for the fun stuff, four political parties have put in their submissions to the AEC for the redivision, the ALP, the Greens, the Liberals and the Nationals.

The Greens submission was an amatuer backroom job. They used the same maps provided to them in the above link, printed them out, used some colour texta to indicate their preferred boundaries and stuck it into their submission, the Greens submission as a pdf weighs in at a puny 510 KB. The ALP's submission is much classier and more professional, however they neglect to use colour coded boundaries and provide maps of the regions in isolation rather than all together. Their submission weighs in at a respectable 1653 KB.

The Sellout of Rural Victorians, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the gerrymander

Both the ALP and the Greens have gone and done something rather dodgy in their configurations of the regional boundaries. They have created three regions, an Eastern one extending to Gippsland, a South Western one and a most peculiar region extending from Mildura in the North West to Benambra in the far East. This is truly bizarre, as a key criterion for the redivision is to group communities of interest together and to consider lines of transport such as major roads, highways and rail. I am not a regional economist but I imagine that those two Assembly districts have as little in common as is possible between rural Victorian districts. By including some outer metropolitan districts to form the three regional regions these two parties are showing their disdain for country Victorians by gerrymandering them out of the democratic process. Their evident strategy here is to get rid of the pesky swinging seats of outer metropolitan Melbourne and at the same time to dilute the National Party vote with stooges who care nought for rural values and concerns and would instead vote strongly for suburban based candidates.

In the South Eastern Victoria/Gippsland region they have inlcuded the heavily suburban regions of Evelyn, Monbulk and Mornington.

In the South Western/Wimmera region they have included the heavily suburban regions of Bellarine, Geelong and Lara.

Thanks to those sellouts, the Northern region which almost takes the shape of a mini Victoria is free of suburban stooges, but as I said before definately breaches the community of interest and realistic transportation criteria.

The Liberal Party's Submission, That's not a gerrymander. This is a gerrymander.

The Liberal party's submission is the most professional of all and includes flashy impressive colour, they use the colour to show the previous upper house provinces which were made up of four assembly districts, while unnecessary it looks nice and as I said before impressive. It wieghs in at a healthy 1858 KB. They too sell out country Victorians with their South Eastern Victorian province, but this time they are even more brazen in their inclusion of Narre Warren North and Narre Warren South which are even more suburban than the ALP and the Green's Evelyn and Monbulk. One can conclude that the Liberals don't want to win back government as badly as they want to marginalise their National Party Coalition partners. But to their credit the Liberals include the districts of Bellarine, Geelong and Lara with other suburban seats snaking up to Williamstown and Keilor.

Overall though, the Liberal party are far more ruthless in denying country Victorians their democracy than the left wing parties. While they have a Western region extending from Portland to Wimmera to The Mallee, including both Ballarat and Bendigo without any dodgy suburban districts, their Northern Victorian district is the most blantant attempt at gerrymander that I have ever seen. While the Greens and the ALP dealt with places that were predominently suburban, they still retained some country connections. In the North the Liberals have included the undisputably suburban electorate of Broadmeadows! As well as the VEC offically suburban districts of Yuroke and Evelyn(the one they left out of Gippsland region). And the highly suspect Yan Yean, which all other parties have as suburban. At least the left wing parties only included districts not regarded by the VEC as metropolitan Melbourne. So if you thought that Labor under Bracks is disdainful of country folk, that the Greens don't give a rats arse about youse and your woodchiping ways, well think again, because the only time the Liberals will have anything to do with you is when cull your stock and more to sunny Brighton.

The National Party's Submission, The Jedi Returns

The National's submission is a breath of fresh air, there ain't no beating around the bush this bush week. It's reads plainly, to the point and very convincing. They take as their starting point that no suburban districts should be attached to areas which are predominately regional in character. It does mean the excising of 2 - 4 regions which might be considered more rural than suburban, but it is a sacrifice that must be made to combat the gerrymanders of ghosts past. It is the best presentation when judged against most criteria, they argue their case well, their maps are by far the best and as they potentially have the most to lose, it is a death star size of 2251 KB.

They propose just two Regional districts with no funny business attached, a western province and an Eastern province, in their words a prosaic choice. My only criticism is that they should be given Aboriginal names rather than Dunlop and Dunstan. How the nationals deal with their expanded metropolitan districts to create 6 regions isn't anything flashy and they more or less say "Look mate, we couldn't give a Kangaroo's arse how youse divvy up them metros, just leave us God-fearing country folk alone". Having said that their choice of what to include as metro is wise and good. There ain't no better way they could of done it without shooting themselves in the foot. All country 'Torians should be proud of the way they have been represented.

But What about the metro areas? That is where everyone who is relevant lives right?

The metro areas are not as clear cut to divvy up, but we have a fantastic starting point with which areas to use thanks to the Nationals. Having done my own research, I have decided on a radically different set of suburban regions. Rather than quartering the city from Melbourne district outwards, I have proposed a more layered approach with an inner city area of common interest, followed by a quartering based as much as fair on outer metro burbs having more in common with other outer metro burbs, rather than middle ring burbs towards town.

To that end I have decided that Northcote has more in common with Williamstown than it does with Ivanhoe and that Williamstown has more in common with Northcote than it does with Altona. Consider the problems of development, congestion, amenity, fashionable shopping strips and gentrification that all the inner city areas face equally and then contrast that to the concerns of middle suburbia, or the concerns of baysiders from Brighton to Carrum, to the concerns of Frankston to Dandenong. They are all very different, which is why we shouldn't blindly divide from the centre outward and put classy up-and-up suburbs such as Kew with tawdry ugly places such as Box Hill. Later on I will upload my regions in Green amatuer fashion so you can get a good optic nerve. In the meantime here is the link to all of the submissions, I will also post later about how the Libs, Greens and Labor propose to respectively gerrymander the Geelong-Melbourne metro area suburbs.

Have fun looking at all of those maps.


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