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Abolish Western Australia

CHRIS THOMSON

RELATED ARTICLE: 12 TOWNS TO RULE THEM ALL

OPINION: As the WA government fumbles over which local authorities to merge, the councils under the microscope should be checking the use-by stamp on Western Australia itself.

The state’s tortuous council ‘reform’ process, ‘steered’ by Local Government Minister John Castrilli has spluttered along for two years – with little to show for having bumped our cities, shires and towns from the driver’s seat.

Now, in the same way the operations of our councils have been investigated, the continued relevance of Western Australia – indeed of all the Australian states – must be probed.

The states are an archaic construct of the late nineteenth century, enshrined in the Australian Constitution when the nation was federated 110 years ago.

Inflicted upon Australia more out of parochial expediency than any rationality were two unwieldy tiers of government.

Local government became the third tier – but 11 decades on, the Constitution still dare not speak its name.

And with good reason in WA – the last state to embark on local government reform and home to 139 councils which is at least two-thirds too many.

In a smarter Australia, we would have no states and no local councils, but regional governments that deal direct on one hand with their citizens and on the other with the federal government.

The regions would assume most responsibilities of the current states and local councils.

In one fell swoop this would rid the nation of a useless layer of bureaucracy, improving consistency of decision-making while ensuring regional diversity.

It happens that the Feds, through Regional Development Australia, have already drafted a map of what the new order would look like:

The map sees everything west of South Australia not as some monolithic Constitutional dinosaur, but as nine good-sized regions each competing on its unique strengths and responding to its particular challenges.

The only change I would suggest would be to roll the Peel region into Perth – cutting the number of fiefdoms to eight and recognising Mandurah’s emergence as the southern part of the world’s most isolated metropolis.

Of course the map is self-serving for the Feds who would love to divide the states and conquer the nation.

This is where a whole new Constitution – with the nine Westralian regions and the Feds as signatories – would need to guard against insidious power creep to Canberra.

The rub is that the existing state of Western Australia would need to surrender its Constitutional birthright so a new deal could be brokered between the Feds and the regions.

A far-sighted state premier or governor could help broker the agreement to do themselves out of a job. The selfless act would earn them a legacy and admiration beyond their wildest dreams.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But the map’s very existence shows I’m not the only one.

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One Response to “Abolish Western Australia”

  1. Sturt says:

    I came across your opinion piece while trying to find a map of WA local government authorities for an assigment.

    The main problem with the proposal is that the states are recognized in the constitution- “one fell swoop”? much much harder than that: Less swoopy, more jerky. LGA’s aren’t recognised in the constitution, and are described by some academics as ‘a creature of the state government’: in that only powers local govenments have are ones that the state lets them have… including their existence. Replacing LGA’s with a broader form of regional government is much more likely simply because it won’t get tangled with constitutional reform.

    Not such a bad dream though.
    ______________________________________
    Thanks, Sturt

    In my antipodean dreamworld, each of the proposed regions would be a state (not just a local authority) in its own right, with the redundant WA Government magnanimously (and out-of-characterly) agreeing to disappear.

    CT

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