HAD Annastacia Palaszczuk wished to signal Queensland’s resumption of its status as a laughing stock, no better way could be found than the idiotic redivision of state boundaries; not content with rigging the electoral system, Palaszczuk has now seen fit to leave a lasting, and embarrassing, mark. Her electoral commissioners should, to put it crudely, get their hands off it — and give place names to electorates, not slogans or jingoistic rubbish.
It is the end of a long week and I’m tired, and there are weightier matters than this that we will canvass over the weekend: that much I promise.
But in a break between work and a meeting I had last night, a quick scan of the Murdoch mastheads over a hurried dinner revealed a nugget of excrement from the Sunshine State that made me shake my head in disbelief.
And worst of all, it is apparently serious.
It is always a bad sign when supposedly independent electoral commissions trumpet the pending release of a redistribution of boundaries in whatever jurisdiction they are located in; for days there has been a steady stream of (what I gather was intended as) suspense-building pronouncements about a release today by the Queensland Redistribution Commission of a redraw of that state’s electorates.
The only problem? Some bastard leaked it to the Fairfax press, and in turn, it’s been published everywhere else in the past 24 hours, including in the Courier Mail, from which you can read some coverage here and here.
And as the Courier Mail bluntly noted, the Commissioners haven’t just rejigged the boundaries — they’ve smashed and reshaped the electoral map.
The addition of four new electorates to what had since 1985 been an 89-seat unicameral Parliament is, on its own, no particular cause for outrage or ridicule; provided these — called for by the LNP as a way of gently scaling down vast rural electorates that have grown in size due to population drift toward the coast and cities — adhered to the principle of “one vote, one value” enshrined after the Fitzgerald Inquiry, with a small weighting for a handful of the largest rural electorates, nobody would have cause to quibble.
But as the bill to establish them came before Parliament, Labor rammed through an amendment to discard the optional preferential voting system (again, a direct legacy of the Fitzgerald probity reforms) and instead restore compulsory preferential voting — for no other reason than to guarantee itself a much higher flow of
Communist Greens preferences, and thus substantially rig the entire system in its own favour.
Happily, the growing likelihood that the emergence of One Nation will, thanks to that change, also guarantee the Queensland LNP a much higher flow of preferences too will probably negate that ill-gotten advantage altogether: this is the problem with cynical rorting of political processes — one day, it will rebound on you altogether if you are stupid enough to try it on.
Even so — and undaunted — word is going around that Palaszczuk is about to call a snap election to avoid having to fight on the new boundaries; and so, idiosyncratically, Queenslanders are likely to head to the polls on the boundaries as they stand today — but not on the existing optional preferential voting system, which Labor has trashed in the brazen interests of self-advantage without consultation or debate.
Confused? You’d have every right to be. It isn’t a good look, and with One Nation thrown into the mix for good measure, Queensland politics is about to better resemble a lottery than a serious exercise in ascertaining who is most fit to govern the state.
At the very minimum, Palaszczuk and her cohorts are merrily turning Queensland back into the national laughing stock it was lampooned as for decades during the Bjelke-Petersen years — albeit without the tangible, commensurate legacy of state development and economic growth that accompanied the former National Party strongman’s tenure during what was a rotten regime to boot.
It’s some achievement, to be sure, and a dubious one indeed.
Yet it’s often the little things that really make a bad change stink, and the thing that leapt out at me — as I perused the proposed new boundaries over a mouthful of salmon last night — was the unfathomably idiotic and in some cases downright ridiculous names the Queensland Redistribution Commission has seen fit to allocate to some of the heavily redrawn state electorates.
A new electorate of “Bonney” on the Gold Coast. Where in hell is that? Glass House being renamed “Tibrogargan” makes a crumb of sense, given the mountain there, but the change smells dangerously of some smartarse thinking a trendy and puerile idea ought to be enacted. Calling what was Mount Isa “Traegar” is laughable. An electorate centred on Taringa, St Lucia and Mount Coot-tha, called “Maigar,” is ridiculous.
Yes, Coopers Camp Road runs obliquely through what was Ashgrove, and Cooper himself is probably a minor local historical figure of mild note, but to rename the electorate after him?
Brisbane Central — which does exactly what it says on the packet — is going to be far less obvious to the outsider and the local alike once it becomes “McConnell.”
And in the silly politician-speak phrase that begins “The people of…,” what subterranean point is there in having an electorate called “Hill” south of Cairns?
Some of these electorate names appear to have an indirect link to roads and topographical features they contain; some seem to be a tokenistic sop to Aboriginal culture, as has become all too fashionable these days; and some are just impermeable in terms of any rational person being likely to be able to ascertain just what the hell the Commissioners were thinking.
The practice of naming electorates after people of note has never sat all that well with me; it is hokey and jingoistic. “The people of Burt,” an electorate created in WA at the last federal redistribution was, I thought, the ultimate piece of electoral crassness, but I think “the people of Hill” have them covered now, or at least soon will.
Even if it takes another electoral cycle for “Hill” to exist at all, if only as a dumb name for a state seat.
Now, Queensland is set to have a state littered with such monuments to the stupidity of people too busy trying to look important and far less deserving of their salaries than their job titles would otherwise suggest.
Bancroft. Oodgeroo. Jordan. Ninderry. Miller. Toohey. I’m pretty sure the last two aren’t describing beer brands, but who in hell would know?
Seriously, these electorates — and the massive changes they inflict on the political landscape in Queensland — will have profound ramifications for all parties to coming electoral contests, with the radically redrawn boundaries likely to unleash a colossal degree of brawling and internal warfare across the political divide, as factions and vested interests set out to seize and protect as much turf as they can, and to protect MPs at high risk of defeat in seats some retain little connection to on their reformed configurations.
But taken in aggregate with the Palaszczuk’s rigging of the electoral system, the opacity of whether the next election will be fought on the old boundaries or the new, and the cringeworthy (and frankly imbecilic) names some of these seats have been given, it isn’t unfair to say that Palaszczuk has directly and indirectly turned Queensland into a joke — and not the kind run out of illicit brothels and casinos in Fortitude Valley under the benign gaze of corrupt Police during the Bjelke-Petersen era, who in any case were far shrewder and more astute than anyone sitting in the ALP party room today, even if they did deploy those attributes toward such improper ends.
Irrespective of who wins the next election in Queensland — whenever that is, and whichever boundaries it is conducted on — the new boundaries themselves have been created through a process that is entirely proper and in accordance with the legislative framework set out in Tony Fitzgerald’s recommendations: that much we do not dispute.
They will not be redrawn again until three elections, or eight years (whichever comes first) have been held or passed: this, too, is entirely appropriate.
But the minute Palaszczuk is thrown out of office and forcibly ejected from the Premier’s suite — hopefully, the day her cynical snap election is held in the near future — the LNP should rename all of the “interesting” electorates the process has created, and resume the system that has always applied in Queensland, whereby electorate names actually describe the places they cover and in terms normal people recognise and understand.
And in the meantime — not to put too fine a point on it — the Queensland Redistribution Commission should get its collective hand off it.
For a state that pompously declares itself to be the “smart” state, this is just dumb, dumb, dumb. And a bit too smart by half.