POPULATION: by Don FordNews Weekly
Why Australia must decentralise to new states now
, February 26, 2005
Last September, Don Ford wrote an article in which he argued that Australia had to rediscover the decentralist principles of the 1950s and 1960s which actively encouraged the growth of rural industries, towns and cities. His article was followed by numerous letters from interested readers. In this sequel, he puts the case for new states.In my previous article (News Weekly, September 11, 2004), I stated the main reasons why I think Australia needs to decentralise its population away from the large coastal cities into country towns and cities and rural areas. These reasons briefly are:
1. The threat of terrorist attacks similar to those which occurred in the USA on September 11, 2001.
2. Our coastal cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, have become severely overcrowded to the stage where it is becoming increasingly more expensive to provide necessary infrastructure (roads, water and electricity, public transport). We have seen how public transport is breaking down in Sydney, for example.
3. Overcrowding of populations is resulting in tensions between various ethnic groups, and a consequent increase in crime and the breaking down of marriage and family relationships.
4. Increasing pollution of the environment through release of noxious fumes and toxic waste contaminating rivers and streams, recreational areas and bushlands. Industries are not the only offenders; households must share much of the blame.
5. Ever-worsening traffic congestion on all main and through roads, both in the central business districts and suburbs, with resultant pollution of the atmosphere and detriment to the health and quality of life of citizens and their children. (It is little wonder that people who have to pay for these supposed benefits through taxation and other financial charges are forming groups to protest against and oppose such projects.) Car drivers are becoming increasingly frustrated at delays and are becoming more aggressive towards other motorists with whom they share the reads. Result, road rage.
Let us now consider the benefits to be gained from decentralisation, as well as how best to encourage a movement of people from the big cities to country areas:
1. One result would be more prosperity for those areas as people settle and work in them. The goods and services which they would invest in and produce would enhance the quality of life of all those living in those areas. Everyone would benefit.
2. It would not be necessary to concentrate populations in restricted areas. Australia is a spacious country; there would be room enough for everyone.
3. Young couples with children should be offered financial incentives to move from the big cities to country towns and cities to establish homes and businesses.
Such incentives could be exempt from taxation and local rates for, say, 10 and five years respectively, and low-interest loans could be offered, with moderate to low rates of repayment, protected by law.
Banks should be encouraged to be generous in the loan and repayment conditions they offer. It is to their advantage to be seen to be co-operative, and they and other loan institutions, such as credit unions and mutual benefit societies, should compete freely with each other to offer customers the cheapest possible repayment terms.
It would be a particularly noble gesture to offer generous assistance to those establishing farms and industries producing essential goods and services to the community.
Such generosity would be rewarded manifold in future years. Not just the borrowers would benefit; the lenders would also, and not just in monetary profit. Their reputations and status as benefactors to the community would be greatly enhanced.
If banks were unwilling to be generous on their own initiative, they should be compelled by law to grant loans at low interest on terms commensurate with the borrowers' ability to pay.
4. Widespread settlement should be encouraged and land should be freely available. People would not then be forced to live within the limits of towns and cities, and contribute to overcrowding and pollution. The more widespread the settlement of people, the purer and fresher the air and water.
Those who take up land for farming in particular, especially for growing crops and rearing animals, are benefactors, enriching and fertilising the soil. They should be given generous assistance and encouragement, as already stated.
5. As these newly-settled areas grow and prosper, even more people will be attracted to them, to help create and share in the developing prosperity. No one who is prepared to work should be refused settlement. Hope will be renewed. Young people especially will feel encouraged to marry, raise and educate children who, when they reach adulthood, will also contribute by their skills and knowledge towards the common good and prosperity of the community of which they are a part.
I am convinced that one reason for the tragic decline in the birthrate and increase in abortion in Australia (although sadly not the only reason) is the sense of despair among the young, the loss of hope and confidence in the future as they come to realise that the supposed attractions and benefits of life in the city are illusory, and their dreams of future happiness incapable of being realised.
I do not, for one moment, suggest that life in the new growth areas will be idyllic. It will still be necessary to work hard, and in many cases, for long hours each day. But the prospect of establishing a prosperous business, be it agricultural, industrial or service-providing, together with a comfortable home for oneself and one's family, would spur on the young and ambitious to greater effort, the end result of which would be an attainable and worthwhile goal.
It must, however, be recognised that prosperity will not always continue, however hard we work to maintain it. There will be periods when little or no growth will be achieved, and the economic activity of these towns and regions will stagnate.
It will be during these times that some people, experiencing loss of income, will become discouraged and be tempted to sell up and move back to the big city with their families.
Every effort should be made to dissuade them from such a drastic and fatal course of action. And the best, most effective way of encouraging them to remain is not only to give them all possible assistance, but to offer them and all other persons in their community the opportunity to elect their own accessible representatives to their own new, sovereign and autonomous state, and who in their state's parliament will have the power to introduce legislation and pass laws for the good governance of their state.
Note that I have said that their representatives and their legislature will be accessible
to them. They will not have to rely on a representative who is inaccessible for a large part of the year, and who sits in a parliament many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away, and who has to compete with other representatives from other parts of a vast, already existing state, whose problems are commensurate with its size, to compete for the taxpayers' dollar in order to obtain necessary works and services - works and services even more costly because of the great distances to be traversed in order to provide them.Closer to the people
The closer the government is to the people, the better control the people can exercise over that government, and the more rapidly and cheaply they can obtain those necessary works and services that only government can provide.
Of course, existing state governments will not readily surrender territories under their control or within their borders. To them, loss of territory is loss of revenue and also loss of prestige and power.
So the big question is: how can the existing mainland states be induced to release land for the establishment of new states, sovereign states with the same powers and responsibilities which they themselves exercise?
Chapter VI, Paragraphs 121 and 124 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia are relevant. Paragraph 121 states that the Commonwealth Parliament "may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States and impose such terms and conditions as it thinks fit regarding representation in either House of Parliament."
Para. 124 states that a new State may be formed by separation of territory from a State, but only with the consent of the Parliament thereof
, and a new State may be formed by the union of two or more States or parts of states, but only with the consent of the Parliaments of the States affected
But what if the majority of members in the parliaments of the old States affected are opposed to the creation of new States within their existing State? Most Labor politicians would fall into this category, the Labor Party being socialist and centralist. Indeed, there are not a few who are opposed to the federal system altogether, and advocate one national government only, responsible for all legislative acts, from law and order and defence, to the provision of public transport, water, electricity and amenities such as roads, paths, recreation areas and garbage collection, impractical and inefficient though such a policy would certainly be. These include the communists and the Greens.
Although loss of territory is loss of revenue, prestige and power for the old state, the acquisition of territory and control over its own revenue is a gain for the new state, and prestige and power for its citizens. May they use it wisely and for the common good.
Finally, we should consider the location and borders of the new states.
Not all of these new states may come into being at the one time. Some, particularly those in the west or centre, may be delayed because they have insufficient population or their people do not yet feel ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood. But no existing state should attempt to frustrate them in their quest.
One principal which should be a firm foundation of the New State Movement is that every state, without exception, should be self-sufficient in terms of revenue. It should not have to rely on the Commonwealth or any other state for financial assistance, apart from that which already flows to the states.