Reforming government in Australia

Reason Two: The states arose in Australia from the original colonies for real geographical reasons. Distances between major regions in

Reforming government in Australia


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l ties of the Centre were with South Australia, a circumstance that still prevails now.

Nelson actually proposed two states in the northern region I've outlined, but I would propose one for reasons of cost and population viability, with the possibility of further subdivision in the future, when the population grows. This state would have initially a lot of pastoralism, a lot of mining, a fair amount of agriculture, some industry in Townsville, and a lot of tourism. Aborigines would be about a quarter of the population, and would therefore have sufficient political weight to defend their interests, probably in alliance with the labour movement in the urban areas of North Queensland.

Westralia.Western Australia would also give up to South Australia a chunk of desert territory running more or less straight up from a point a bit to the west of Eyre on the Great Australian Bight, to the Capricornia border. But it would retain the rest of Western Australia, including the Pilbara, the Hamersley Ranges and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area. Westralia would be still a very large state and an economically diverse and balanced one, with Perth as the natural regional capital and focus.

Centralia. South Australia would be renamed Centralia, and take in the desert area detached from Western Australia, the Centre from the Northern Territory, and a tiny bit of south-west Queensland. The reason for the transfer of the bit of Western Australia is that the whole of the Blackstone and Musgrave Ranges should be under one government for sensible land management reasons. There are few obvious mineral resources there and a small population. But it's crazy having a natural ecological region divided between two states.

The further border of South Australia should go on a line from near the present SA-NSW-Queensland corner, down just to the west of Tibooburra, across the Darling just to the west of the Menindie Lakes and go down to the Murray to the east of Wentworth and Mildura; and then should go on a line from there across to the sea at a point between Kingston and the end of the Coorong. The effect of this would be to transfer Broken Hill, the Menindie Lakes and the Wentworth and Mildura irrigation areas into South Australia, from NSW and Victoria, and to transfer the Mount Gambier area to Victoria.

All of these are entirely rational and democratic geographical and population transfers. Broken Hill, Wentworth and Mildura are all tied to South Australia by many more practical ties than to the states into which they are currently exiled and, conversely, the Mount Gambier area is really an extension, geographically, of the Western District of Victoria, with exactly the same social and agricultural set up as the Western District.

A number of sociological studies of the Mount Gambier area have shown that in things like where people in Mount Gambier make phone calls to, and where they travel outside their home district, they have much stronger ties with Victoria than they do with Adelaide. The new, expanded South Australia Centralia would be a natural geographical area with a great deal of industry, and with the administrative tasks and problems of agriculture and land management having a unifying focus around the problems of arid-land pastoralism, low-rainfall agriculture and irrigation agriculture, with Adelaide as the natural centre.

Tasmania would remain untouched, for the obvious reason that it is an island.

Mannix. In addition to the incorporation of the Mount Gambier area from South Australia, and the transfer of Mildura to South Australia, the Victoria-NSW border would be redrawn from a line just south of Hay across to a point just south of Holbrook, and from there to the existing border, and from there to the sea, thus transferring the southern Riverina to Victoria, a completely rational geographical and political arrangement, which the local population in that area has agitated for, off and on, in the periods when they weren't pushing for a new state. A new state of the Riverina would not be viable for population and geographical city/hinterland reasons, and I believe that the population of the southern Riverina would be happy with the alternative of a transfer to Victoria, which has been floated many times in the area.

The name of Victoria might be more appropriately changed to Mannix, to give the enormous Irish contribution to Victorian and Australian life proper recognition in the name of the most illustrious and revered Irish Australian, Archbishop Daniel Mannix. The state of Mannix would have about 4.75 million population and would be a compact and viable economic region centred on Melbourne.

Macquarie. The second new state should cover the only other area in Australia that lends itself easily to a viable state with a sufficiently large hinterland and population based on a major port, that is the New England-North Coast area of NSW, with Newcastle as the capital. There is a longstanding demand for a new state in that region and it is entirely reasonable.

The boundary should be from just south of Lake Macquarie, up the Dividing Range between the Hunter Valley and the south, a bit to the north of Mudgee, Dubbo, Narromine and Gilgandra, and a little to the west of Coonamble and Walgett, over the Darling River, and then back to the sea north of the Darling, a little to the north of Moree and Warialda, a little to the south of Tenterfield and to the sea north of Maclean and south of Ballina and Lismore.

The new state would have about a million inhabitants and would be a viable economic area with a varied agricultural base, a lot of industry, a lot of mining and a lot of tourism, with a natural capital and focus in Newcastle.

Taking on the role of the state capital would provide a major economic boost to Newcastle in the face of recent industrial decline, and could even reverse the industrial decline. This is the only other region in Australia that lends itself easily to a new state if the criteria for a state are a combination of a viable hinterland with a major city as the focus. Macquarie seems a sensible name since it is that of the most progressive early governor of NSW, who happened to be in charge when the region was first developed.

Pemulwuy.The borders of a somewhat smaller NSW flow from all the other arrangements, with the addition that a further border should be drawn a bit to the north of the Darling River, transferring the area around Tibooburra and the Paroo into Queensland. The smaller NSW would still include Bourke, Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst, the Central Coast area, which looks to Sydney, Goulburn, Wagga, the Murrumbidge Irrigation Area, Wollongong and the Illawarra area, and the Snowy Mountains.

The ACT should also to be transferred back to NSW. It is really just a large administrative city, and there's no principle of government that says the national capital can't be part of a state. All of the areas in the smaller NSW are interlocked and to some extent focus around Sydney, even the bigger cities such as Canberra and Wollongong, and further subdivision of a natural economic area would be entirely undesirable.

The population of the smaller NSW would still be the largest in the country about five and a quarter million and the smaller area would be a natural economic unit with a varied agricultural regime, a lot of industry and a natural focus around the business of government. Sydney is already far and away the commercial capital of Australia, with the national headquarters of most firms, and associating Sydney and Canberra in the one state is really a practical recognition of this reality.

The possible objection from Victoria to this geographically realistic merger of the ACT and NSW should have been eliminated by the sensible trade-off of transferring Mount Gambier and the Southern Riverina to Victoria. An appropriate name for the new state of NSW would be Pemulwuy, commemorating the courageous Aboriginal general who resisted British conquest.

Queensland.Finally, the boundaries of Queensland should be north of the Darling River and north of Maclean and south of Lismore. The Lismore-Murwillumbah area should be transferred to Queensland in recognition of an already existing geographical reality, as should be the Paroo-Tibooburra area in the west. The new, more compact Queensland would still be a very large, diverse and economically viable state, with about three million population after shedding North Queensland and gaining the Lismore-Murwillumbah region. The name Queensland would be preserved.


Embrace New Zealand


At the time of federation, Western Australia almost didn't join, and New Zealand almost did. In fact, the Australian Constitution, adopted at Federation, still allows for New Zealand to join at any time. Two small sovereign states in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, with very similar ethnic and cultural characteristics, and totally interlocking, similar economies, is a bit of an absurdity. While it's obvious that, with the passing of time, it has become harder to envision a merger between Australia and New Zealand, a moment of major constitutional change in Australia would not be a bad time to test whether a merger between the two countries could be a real possibility.

There are some obvious major advantages in such a merger. Some of these are: a larger more rationally integrated domestic market, standardised immigration procedures, broader cultural interchange and a unified currency. Under the arrangements outlined above, it would be administratively feasible for New Zealand to become two states of the Commonwealth, say, Northland and Southland. Northland would have a population of three million and Southland about

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