My New Year’s resolution is to get rid of the states. Not only are their governments all but useless, but they have such pathetic names too. Western Australia and South Australia are little more than mud-map directions to get there. Queensland and Victoria - in effect the same name for two of our most populous states. What, couldn’t we think of another one?
As for New South Wales, it’s confusing. Did Cook mean “New southern Wales” or the “New Wales in the South”? Who cares anyway - either way it smacks of Postman Pat and Cardiff on a rainy day. The only decent state name we have is Tasmania because at least it has a little mania, and that nice zesty Taz straight off the tongue.
The real question we should ask ourselves as we enter the brave new year of 10 is what are we doing without a single national education system and a single national health system when we are a single nation and not the jigsaw of states our colonial forebears stencilled upon this continent.
The states give us “states rights” too, the scurrilous catcall of lamebrain senators who sit in that benighted place, the bush lawyers, eccentrics and spoilers who somehow know more about climate change than all the world’s scientific experts put together.
Paul Keating rightly labelled the senate “unrepresentative swill”, because Tasmania elects as many members as New South Wales or Victoria. But we are not Tasmanians or Victorians, nor Welshmen new, old nor southern, for heaven’s sake - we are Australians, and both our national houses of parliament should recognise this simple fact by properly proportional representation.
The current situation is a ludicrous colonial hangover, matched only by the fact that the entity we call the Australian Commonwealth, the one that comprises the jigsaw of states, has a head of state in a slate grey snowed-in capital on the far side of the world and whose main interests are horseflesh and small dogs.
The only reason we still have a foreign head of state is that we are too lazy and apathetic to replace her with someone who was actually born here, just as we are too lazy and apathetic to revisit the arrangements made more than a century ago, to go about reforming the senate and abolishing the states. For those who remain to be convinced of the need for senate reform, three names: Albert Field, Brian Harradine, Steve Fielding.
Once abolished, many of the roles of state governments could be replaced by an enlarged local government sector, and for all those who immediately cry out “Shonky Wollongong Council!”, I reply “I’ll see your shonky council, and raise you one utterly and terminally useless New South Wales Government!”
The other state governments might possibly be a tad more acceptable, but we don’t need them. We have three tiers of government for a nation of just 21 million people. State governments are superfluous and by and large useless for anything more than sod-breaking photo-ops.
I urge all readers to make getting rid of them their New Year’s resolution too. Think of it: we have nothing to lose but one entire unimaginative, wasteful, and expensive tier of government.
While we’re at it, our city names could do with a revisit too, Sydney and Melbourne in particular, named after our English lords and masters of the time of colonisation. Are we to be burdened evermore with the legacy?
Bennelong would seem a fine name for Sydney, and as for Melbourne, a friend suggested Batmania, which may at least give it more popular appeal than that big ball of wool. For Brisbane, Bogan has been suggested, fusing with its satellite Logan to become the tropical metropolis of Boganville. Perth I move to retain as my emigrant family came from Perthshire, and Adelaide I should like to retain too as with enormous foresight it was named after my daughter.
Darwin is our best-named city, a permanent annoyance to Creationists and flat-earthers. In honour of the great man one might suggest that the imaginatively named “Northern Territory” become Galapaga. Or if not that, how about Gondwana?
Alice Springs must be retained too, in honour of Neville Shute, Helen Morse and the telegraph, and for the famed on-air blunder of the ABC radio newsreader who opened a bulletin with “Here is the news from South Australia, read by Alice Springs”.
Alice springs eternal. But as for the states, abolish them; the senate, reform it; and as for the republic, may we at last be grown up enough to bring it on.