Fairness Requires More Members for South-East Queensland

Failure to implement seven yearly reviews of the number of seats in the Queensland Parliament has condemned rural and remote Queenslanders to lesser representation than other Queenslanders, the Member for Gregory has said in a submission to the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs and Community Safety.

“At the same time, we are happy for rural Queenslanders to pay the same taxes and charges as their more privileged cousins while they enjoy lesser benefits,” said Lachlan Millar MP.

“When EARC recommended a single population quota system of electors to members, it also recommended that the number of seats be reviewed every seven years in order to keep pace with population growth,” he said.

“This was never done. While the number of seats has not increased since 1986, the population has virtually doubled. As a result, at every electoral redistribution the larger seats have been expanded so that more seats could be created for the south east corner and coastal towns. EARC never intended this,” said Mr Millar.

“We run the risk that the boundaries of the large electorates become arbitrary. They cease to reflect Queensland’s geographical districts and the very real, human cultural boundaries these create. This is dangerous because it undermines people’s sense of being part of a community of common interests, and that is vital to the functioning of our democracy.”

Mr Millar said the stripping of representation was increased by the forced council amalgamations which repeated all of the insults at a local government level.

“The experience becomes one of having an administration imposed on your daily life with no understanding and even less care for the consequences that might be created by inappropriate administrative decisions,” he said.

“Part of a local member’s job is to help people navigate the impact of government and departments on their daily life. The size of the task facing different members is a red flag to an underlying unfairness,” he said.

Mr Millar’s submission pointed out that his seat of Gregory is the same size as Victoria and Tasmania combined. It has 39 towns and settlements, only two of which are linked by a commercial air-flight.

“With 8 local governments, 57 schools, 26 police stations, 25 ambulance stations, two major rail lines incorporating the coal-rail freight hub at Blackwater-Bluff, thousands of kilometres of key roads, thirteen river systems, Queensland’s second largest dam, from the Bowen Basin to the Channel Country, virtually every State Government portfolio has direct relevance to Gregory’s people,” he said.

“Many city electorates will never have dealings with government departments such as lands, water, planning or mines. They may have one local government, no hospital or police station and maybe three or four schools all within five or ten minutes’ drive. Even many regional electorates can be driven across in hours. This is just not true in seats like Gregory, Warrego, Cook, Mount Isa or Dalrymple.”

Mr Millar dismissed suggestions that advances in communications and technology had softened the effects of electorate expansion.

“It is exactly this part of Queensland which has poor internet and phone, few transport options other than private vehicles, challenging roads and huge distances. All the obstacles to fair representation that existed in 1990 essentially remain,” he said.

Mr Millar said he hoped there would be serious, bi-partisan consideration of the Electoral (Redistribution Commission) and Another Act Amendment Bill 2015 as fairness to all Queenslanders is the foundation for good governance.

All submissions to the inquiry will be published on the Queensland Parliament web page later this week at http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/LACSC/inquiries/current-inquiries/05-ElectoralRedistAAAB15