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Author Topic: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?  (Read 468 times)

Offline #Metro

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Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« on: June 12, 2017, 01:52:42 PM »
Queensland is the only state not to have an upper house, as it was abolished in 1922.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queensland_Legislative_Council

1. A lack of a Queensland Senate is something that I have regarded as a good thing (fewer politicians, faster decisions) but the recent #RailFail has made me come to revisit and question this belief.

2. There is a considerable number of reports and reviews that are flooding the Queensland Parliament. Members of the Lower House must deal with this in addition to normal business and this is competing for the House's time. There is merit in creating a division of labour between a Senate and Lower House - one for producing laws, the other one for reviewing and monitoring.

Annastacia Palaszczuk slammed for ‘review, not do’ strategy
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/annastacia-palaszczuk-slammed-for-review-not-do-strategy/news-story/951fbbe17a67739509e5fe0f4d865389

Quote
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s minority government has overseen 145 reviews, inquiries, taskforces and new ­bureaucratic offices in less than two years, prompting concerns her administration is plagued by “paralysis”.

The Queensland government has ordered more than 120 reviews and inquiries since defeating the Liberal National Party at the January 2015 election.

3. Reviews are an essential and unavoidable part of a government. Members of Parliament do not come as experts with knowledge of systems - politicians are not and never have been elected on the basis of expertise, but on their ideological values and policy positions. They are representatives, not experts.

4. Without reviews, a government cannot claim to be discharging its monitoring function and whether public programs and monies are doing what they were intended to do. These functions are better exercised by a dedicated and specialised house, whose members can dedicate their entire time to this task.

5. In Queensland, there is a disenfranchisement of voter groups who are not concentrated in a particular electorate. To win a seat in Parliament, voter numbers must be concentrated geographically. State policies affect the entire state of Queensland, not just particular electorates. So in other words, Greens voters (for example) are paying taxes to the State of Queensland but don't have representation in Parliament simply because they are not concentrated enough.

6. The Greens share of the vote was about 8.5% at the 2015 Queensland State election. They got no representation in Parliament, despite these people (221 157 voters) paying tax in some form to the State of Queensland. In contrast, the Katter Party got 1.93% of the vote (50 588 voters) but got two seats in Parliament because of their concentration in rural and remote areas of Queensland. This strikes me as wrong. It goes against the principle "no taxation without representation".

7. The Queensland Government is dysfunctional no matter if it is the LNP or the ALP in power. It gives absolute power to the winner, and if the margin is large (i.e. Newman Government) all sorts of irrationally exuberant policies / lunatic policies come out
of the woodwork and there is nothing to stop it (examples - moving labour day holiday, putting prisoners in pink jumpsuits). A Queensland Senate would put a lid on this madness.

8. Random changes - e.g. the sudden change from optional preferential voting to mandatory preferential voting - would also be greatly reduced if a Senate were in place. Very important changes that warrant full discussion and community debate are just flying through the lower house like an uncontrolled car that has left the road.

9. In addition to the division of labour and specialisation that a Queensland Senate would make possible, such a Senate would improve accountability markedly. As Jo-Ann Miller MP (ALP, Bundamba) rightly points out, Estimates are nothing but an exercise in choreography. It is a total joke with stage managed questions and "dorothy-dixers". Proper inquiries should be flushing out where the problems are.

Constructive criticism actually strengthens policies because it nails all the weak points. This is not happening.

Jo-Ann Miller ditches Labor waltz, dances to her own drum
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/joann-miller-ditches-labor-waltz-dances-to-her-own-drum-20160816-gqu6gd.html

Quote
On Tuesday, she doubled down on her strategy, using a parliamentary debate to bemoan how the process - one of the most important in the unicameral Queensland Parliament - had become "a joke".

"What we have in Queensland is a situation where we have almost a dance, where the government side - it is so organised that it is almost like a parliamentary waltz," she said.

10. A Queensland Senate would be empowered to create its own inquiries and reviews, rather than the government keeping in control of whether an investigation is initiated or not. This would be a major improvement in transparency and accountability. The current farce with Queensland Rail and the mess that is the NGR (protected by a wall of silence) would not last five seconds if there were a Queensland Senate.

11. It should not be up to community groups and journalists to go digging for information - both which of whom do not have the resources in time and money to dedicate themselves to this task. Journalists are being fired and the stories resemble more click bait than investigative reporting nowadays, so this is more important than ever.

12. A lot of commissions and other review functions would become simpler to administer without the government and Lower House members controlling everything. Consider the scrap over who should sit on the committee that the Crime and Misconduct Commission as chair.

Crime and Corruption Commission in limbo as scrap continues over new chair
http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/crime-and-corruption-commission-in-limbo-as-scrap-continues-over-new-chair/news-story/c4041cbde4bacc0d78e11ab71690042a

Quote
The committee is at a stalemate over the nomination.

The LNP is frustrated by the Government’s refusal to accept the Opposition’s nomination of Mr Seeney as chairman of the committee before it picks the new Crime and Corruption Commission boss.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had promised to allow a non-government chairperson to run the PCCC, but will not accept Mr Seeney in that role.



13. Re-establishing a Queensland Senate would not automatically mean an increase in politicians. Originally my thinking was that a Senate would increase the number of Queensland politicians. And did we really need more politicians?  ::)

14. However, after more considered thinking I can say that my initial belief and position was wrong. It is not a given certainty that the number of politicians must increase. You could have a set of new politicians or you could simply split the lower house and create a Senate out of the bit that you break off. That would keep the total number of politicians constant and unchanged.

15. The next Parliament would have 93 seats. We could take say 20% of the lower house MPs (about 21 MPs) and remove them from the lower house (by appointment under a transitional provision to the Queensland Constitution) to re-establish the Upper House. After a period of time, those members would be subject to election by proportional voting.

Numbers would then look like:

Lower House: 72 politicians (71 politicians in the house + 1 speaker).

Upper House 21 politicians (20 politicians + 1 speaker)

20 dividable by 2 so there is a possibility of a deadlock here. However, this can be avoided if the speaker is a public servant nominated by the Governor-General and independent. This would not break any tradition since the Queensland Senate has not existed since 1922.

16. Proportional voting would also mean that other parties are present and thus more chance of a crossbench that one can negotiate with. Ideally, the Queensland Senate's senators would be elected at the same time as any Queensland Election and have concurrent terms. The proportional representation mechanism and the production of a cross bench are thus solely relied upon here to prevent one party taking control of the Senate and using it as a rubber stamp.

17. Conclusion. The NGR and Queensland Rail non-transparency have revealed systemic issues in how Parliament operates.  A Queensland Senate won't solve every problem but will make it much harder for non-transparency and uncritical, poorly reviewed policy to exist.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 02:15:33 PM by #Metro »
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Offline verbatim9

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2017, 01:55:33 PM »
No! Proportional​ representation yes! Then all voters would potentially have a voice at a fraction of the cost of reinstating an upper house

Offline #Metro

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2017, 02:10:55 PM »
Quote
No! Proportional representation yes! Then all voters would potentially have a voice at a fraction of the cost of reinstating an upper house

Verbatim9, my position was originally the same as yours. But I think I will move my position now because what I am seeing the Queensland Government do is not good government. It should not be possible to hide things like the NGR so easily. And I have come to question why we have such a mess regardless of which party is in office.

I am no longer persuaded by the cost argument. When you have something that is important, the cost you are willing to expend should be proportional to that. It is not just about costs, but also benefit. The actual Senate chamber still exists inside the Queensland Parliament House. It is just unused. It would not be too much trouble (in a building construction sense) to bring it back.

The argument that this requires more politicians is not true either - you can create a Senate without adding more politicians if you really really wanted to. So there goes the "more politicians/cost argument" out the window. It is not true.

Your suggestion that conversion of the lower house to proportional representation was also one of my original positions. However, have you considered that although that solves the representation issue that comes about from the dispersed/concentrated effect, crucially, it does not solve the division of labour problems?

Under proportional representation, you would still have the Queensland Parliament flooded with hundreds and hundreds of reviews and inquiries. Without that division of labour, the House is going to run more inefficiently as these items compete for the House's time.
Negative people... have a problem for every solution.
Posts are commentary and are not necessarily endorsed by RAIL Back on Track or its members. Not affiliated with, paid by or in conspiracy with MTR/Metro.

Offline aldonius

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2017, 03:38:52 PM »
The 'no more politicians' argument is pretty silly anyway. The mathematically optimal parliament size is the cube root of the population (see Taagepera & Shugart). Queensland actually ought to have over 160 parliamentarians!

Offline 300LA

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2017, 06:34:37 PM »
I'm personally in favour of reintroducing an upper house, simply to bring back a formal system of review, prevent stupid decisions and to reduce government kneejerk reactions.

For thise advocating a proportional system, NZ has a (partly) proportional voting system, they haven't had a majority government since.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_New_Zealand

Offline Gazza

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2017, 12:32:22 AM »
What about a Tassie style Hare Clark system?

Offline aldonius

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Re: Fixing Queensland - Should the Queensland Senate Return?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2017, 12:42:40 AM »
The trouble with Hare Clark for Queensland is that the requisite district sizes would be really big to achieve both a respectable district magnitude (5, 6 or 7 people elected at a time) and a parliament roughly the same size as now.

However, if we did exactly as Tasmania does, we'd simply elect 5 MPs from each Federal district. Total parliament size of 150 MPs. If my maths upthread holds, that'd actually be about the 'optimal' parliament size.

Note that Tasmania also has an upper house, but they elect mostly independents-in-name from 11 single-member districts on a rotating basis.

 

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