14 August 2006

Lessons from the ACT

If your financial performance has been this bad, don't you start developing a social conscience or whingeing about the Constitution. It didn't work for Whitlam and it won't work for Stanhope either.

I think gay/lesbian civil unions are absolutely equal to heterosexual de facto relationships. Marriage is different, but nobody is talking about gay marriage in this debate - asking why gays/lesbians can't get married is like asking why Muslims don't take Holy Communion. Opponents of this measure are few but active - still irrelevant in a democracy with compulsory voting. Just because something isn't forbidden, it doesn't mean it's now compulsory - the very essence of liberalism which, despite five hundred years of Enlightenment, churchy people just cant grasp. There are bigger issues to focus on, but you can't blame those for whom gay issues are deeply personal issues, nor those of us who regard homosexuality as part of the human condition whose recognition costs non-homosexuals nothing.

The ACT is basically a jumped-up council. It would be fair to call it a one-off were it not for the example of Brisbane, a proper city council that executes its functions in a responsible manner. The sheer degree to which these Brindabella hillbillies are out of their depth is a clear example of why the fringe movement to break down the states and introduce regional councils like this is a non-starter. There is a critical mass for the kind of services that State governments deliver, and the ACT is attempting to limbo under that.

The transition costs would never be recouped, and regional areas would go backwards even faster than they are now. Take this guy: his solution for New England is to devote their hard-earned to buying some sheep runs and building a New Canberra between Tamworth and Armidale (and not just local money - you know he'd be panhandling from growth centres in Sydney and Brisbane to make his absurd dream work). The best thing this joker can do for New England is to stay in Hornsby. Earle Page is dead, so is the idea that country people are better and more special than other Australians, as well as the idea that they create all the wealth for this country. OK, it's not dead as long as there are characters like the New England dreamer and the ACT incompetents, but hopefully they'll find reality bracing if not discouraging. If regional areas think they're being neglected now, they should try cutting themselves off politically from the cities.

Except for the ACT, the States are configured such that they all contain a major city, a number of regional centres, and some remote and sparsely populated areas. When COAG comes together on the big national issues like native title, mental health or terrorism, everyone's sitting up and taking notice. If that were extended to a multitude of regional councils it would be a dialogue of the deaf, amid an orgy of waste. Political ineptitude exists despite the Constitution, and not because of it.

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