Sometimes it is an advantage to have been born an Aussie. Green Co-Leader Russel Norman grew up in Queensland. In Russel’s youth Queensland was ruled with an iron fist by the corrupt right-wing Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Bjelke-Petersen retained power by a gerrymandered electoral system that gave his Country (later National) Party electoral representation vastly in excess of its votes. It became known as the Bjelkemander. An electoral map of Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen made extraordinary viewing – fingers and toes stuck out of electorates everywhere to advantage Bjelke-Petersen’s party and its allies and to disadvantage the opposition Labor Party.
And it worked – The 1972 Queensland election, when Russel was still a pre-schooler, produced this result:
The Bjelkemander remained in place, and continued to maintain Bjelke-Petersen’s corrupt rule with the support of the Liberal Party until 1989, by which time Russel was in his early 20s.
So where’s this all going. Well, yesterday Federated Farmers released a manifesto complaining:
…rural representation in local government has declined because of the Local Electoral Act which ‘requires strict adherence to a +/- 10% quota for the number of voters each councillor should represent’ (p.23).
Federated Farmers then goes on to say that it wants ‘Councils to be given the flexibility to decide representation arrangements’.
Russel, who grew up under the Bjelkemander, was quick to pick up on this:
What this means is that the Feds want a system in which Councils can decide to change their voting system so that rural wards have fewer voters than town wards or city wards. This will mean that a majority of councillors can be elected by a minority of voters. This is a kind of feudalism in which some people are more equal than others.
This is a fundamental attack on the idea that we are all equal and that town voters are worth the same as rural voters. It will entrench undemocratic minority control over regional councils and district councils.
Well said Russel.
Of concern is National Party Agriculture Spokesperson David Carter, who said:
… the policies and principles laid out in the manifesto largely reflect those in National’s 2008 agriculture and biosecurity policies.
The Nats need to come clean over the next two days and tell the public if a local version of the Bjelkemander is one of Federated Farmers’ policies that they support.