The Australia Institute, a well-known progressive think-tank has said that contrary to popular belief, the country would benefit from more politicians and not less. The discussion paper made the argument that there needed to be greater political representation in the ACT.
The paper points out that the number of representative members in parliament had not stayed consistent with the growth of Australia’s population. The number of people living under each parliamentarian’s jurisdiction has increased by 3 times since the formation of the federal government in 1901.
It states that in 1901 there was an average of 34,500 citizens for every federal MP, with 46,900 by 1951. In today’s Australia it is estimated there are 106,000 citizens for each MP.
The executive director of the Australia Institute, Ben Oquist, said that it would take “real leadership” to “admit” that Australian MP’s are “stretched too thinly”. He went on to say that “a functioning democracy” was less expensive than the cost of leaving the system to become “dysfunctional”.
The Australia Institute paper cited results from a national poll in April. The poll, which reached 1,408 people, was carried out by Research Now. The results showed that less than a third of people asked felt confident in being able to speak to their local member about a political issue.
The paper asserted that more political representation would likely benefit Australia but was quick to reveal that citizens were not keen to have more politicians. The poll said that half of respondents believed the number of MP’s should be decreased with only 9% supporting an increase
The other respondents either said the number of MP’s should remain the same or were unsure of their opinion.
The poll also showed that only 13% had directly spoken to their local member whilst only 16% had written in a letter or email. 61% of respondents said that they did not even know the name of their local member.
The paper cited that the “last substantial increase” in MP numbers had occurred over 30 years ago, resulting in the current group of MP’s being “spread as thinly as they are now”. The paper supports an incremental increase in politicians to keep consistent with the population.
It goes on to say that more MP’s with smaller areas of responsibility means that more citizens could voice their concerns and have a greater role in policy making. This is seen as a far more democratically sound approach.
Oquist stated that democracy was “built on the idea that politicians are accessible to their electorate” and should be taking the views of their constituents to parliament. Certainley with issues like Australia’s relationship with China and crackdown on foreign influence there is likely much that Australians would like to express to their politicians.