Sunday, July 8, 2012

FNQ surrounded by unicameral majoritarian tyranny

At Club Troppo, Nicholas Gruen has posted the unexpergated version of an opinion by Mike Pepperday in last weeks AFR. This provides a perspective on the problematic instability of PNG politics. There is also some interesting background to the history of the political structure:
In 1975 the Whitlam government set up PNG with a single chamber of parliament (a “unicameral” system) to which MPs were elected from single-member electorates (so-called “majoritarian” representation). This design—a single chamber composed of electorates each represented by a single member—has never worked for any country.
Where did Australian officials get the idea? In 1975 the only Australian instance was Queensland. World-wide, there were only two democratic examples. One was New Zealand, at that time unicameral for 25 years and regretting it even more than they had regretted the bicameral parliament they had had for a century. The other was Northern Ireland, at that time in flames. In short, they had no model; they experimented. Other majoritarian, unicameral countries were Mauritius, then under a state of emergency, and some catastrophic African states.
Perhaps it had something to do with Gough's regard for the Senate as it couldn't possibly have been influenced by his respect for Joh Bjelke-Petersen (Note: I think the term was "bible bashing bastard")? It does however also place Queensland in an intersting position given the history and current lopsided parliament, with NZ and Northern Ireland having both since replaced the unicameral majoritarian structure. The NT was also established by Whitlam as a unicameral majoritarian structure, which means FNQ is surrounded!

Pepperday's comments on PNG also deserve at least some contemplation in context of the recent post here at Loose Change on PNG and political stability:
Australia and New Zealand have propped up Pacific countries since their independence. They can go on propping up the micro-states indefinitely but PNG, with its six million people and its resource wealth, is becoming independent of our handouts. Private security companies are moving in and guns are flooding in. A showdown looms. The prospect is for civil strife and take over by the colonels. They will bring order, Torrens title, ethnic cleansing, and refugee camps on Cape York.
Quite colourful and perhaps hyperbole, but we do appear to be quite sanguine and perhaps complacent about the possibility and consequences of  political dysfunction in PNG for the Far North?

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