Steve Bracks gave a boost to coverage of the proposed new Victorian Upper House boundaries yesterday, holding a media event to call it, quite rightly, “a great day for democracy” – even though the Boundaries Commission still hadn’t managed to get the new boundaries up on its website.

The best analysis was by Tim Colebatch in this morning’s Age who wrote that “in the long term, this will mean the Legislative Council will become the house of review it was meant to be.” Michael Bachelard in The Australian focused on the difficulty the major parties will have in accommodating all their sitting MPs.

The National Party complained that country Victoria was being short-changed, showing that it still believes MPs should represent land, not people. Currently the National Party, with 4.4% of the vote, holds 9% of the upper house seats, so if it falls back to one or two out of 40, that will be no more than its due. Antony Green, oddly enough, was quoted as saying that “the Nationals will lose out under proportional representation because their support base is so concentrated in regional areas,” but of course a party with that low a vote evenly distributed would win no seats at all.

The Greens expect to move in the opposite direction, and already have a set of policies they want to push with their new influence. Robert Doyle objected that it was unhealthy for minor parties to have the balance of power, but it was not clear what his alternative was; Victoria’s Legislative Council has historically been either a government rubber stamp or an opposition-controlled minefield, so change will almost certainly be for the better.

Peter Fray

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