At least Charles Richardson agrees that the current distribution of seats in the ACT is a “scandal.” However, he overlooks a few important facts. First, if my proposed 10% system were adopted, the three ACT electorates would not be the smallest in the country. The order of the smallest seats would be something like: Solomon (NT), Lingiari (NT), Lyons (Tas), Bass (Tas), Denison (Tas), Franklin (Tas), Braddon (Tas), Namadgi (ACT), Canberra (ACT), Moore (WA) and Fraser (ACT).

Secondly, my proposal isn’t “doctoring” anything. Guaranteeing five seats for all states, but not the territories, undermines principles of democratic equality, and any new system needs to fix this problem. There are three options to preserve fairness:

(1) Grant the territories a five-seat minimum just like all the states (no referendum required, but unlikely to gain support).

(2) Remove the five-seat guarantee for states (even if the states ignored the howls from Tasmania, this would require a referendum).

(3) My proposal: adopt an intermediate system that ensures territory electorate sizes never grow larger than the worst case scenario faced by the states.

Richardson’s suggestion to adopt New Zealand’s MMP system solves nothing unless state boundaries are eradicated at the federal level – a radical solution requiring a referendum that has its own set of problems.

My proposal only requires an Act of Parliament and places the representation of territories on a sustainable level. I strongly believe this is the best solution achievable without amending the constitution, and if the Libs are so desperate to keep a second NT seat they should at least act with integrity and move to a system that makes sense and is sustainable in the longer term.

If Crikey readers still think my proposal is party political, I have a simple challenge: read my 10% proposal and come up with a better solution.

PS: Crikey, the link provided yesterday was broken – the proposal is here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey