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16 December 2020
It is hard to comprehend that a Victorian electorate, geographically covering about a sixth of relatively small, temperate, fertile and resource-rich Victoria, might have to expand because it doesn’t have enough voters.
Yet that is the scenario unfolding for far western Victoria’s Lowan electoral division. This is despite Victoria’s overall population having a growth spurt and Melbourne set to become Australia’s largest city by 2026.
It begs the question: Are we comfortable in Victoria in squeezing most of our people, development and socio-economic activity into a greater Port Phillip province?
If not, how fair dinkum are we in trying to find ways of getting a more even spread of people across the state? And how much do we want, if at all, circumstances to change?
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We’ve heard about the ills of the ‘urban sprawl’ and seen or experienced the congestion, traffic and-or real-estate woes that tend to feature heavily in metropolitan-produced news reports.
The past decade has put a spotlight on the issue, particularly from a city-based perspective, as people cram in to where they believe the best opportunities are for jobs, lifestyle, education, health, transport and connectivity.
At the same time, regional and rural western Victorian communities have been crying out for leadership on ways to stimulate growth. ‘We need more people,’ they have consistently cried.
Some commentators suggest promoting a philosophy of decentralisation is little more than political lip service to keep the masses happy while, in reality, the issue has found a perpetual home on the back-burner.
We only get a real idea of how interested governments are or successful they have been on rebuilding populations in our part of the state when the time comes around for electoral redivision.
Boundary realignment is designed to ensure each of the 88 Victorian electorates provide equal representation on the number of enrolled voters. It is basically about dividing up the state in geographical pieces based on where voters live.
The truth is, if electoral redivision was a report card on how well we have managed to evenly disperse the population in the past 10 years the mark would be a big ‘F’.
Lowan geographically continues to expand, struggling to keep pace with accelerated population growth elsewhere.
As an electorate it will soon start resembling the massive governance regions of other much larger states covering Australia’s vast interior.
With physically larger electorates comes an increasing threat of fragility in representation for the people who call these areas home – something that really shouldn’t happen in a modern Victoria.
Yes, we’re in Victoria and it is far from ideal that our state lower-house representatives must spend hours on the road travelling, simply to meet constituents.
A regular influx of people, along with the necessary socio-economic support processes, would change circumstances dramatically.
We’re not holding our breath, however, waiting for serious intent to allow this to happen.
The entire December 16, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!