A constitutional convention wiki

The true fructovoter has a passion for constitution-writing. Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University in (you guessed it) Darwin and has been a practising lawyer since 1983. Ken is also the founder of Club Troppo a notable Australian political blog. He has posted a draft statehood constitution for the Northern Territory and invited contributions and criticisms at the People’s Northern Territory Constitutional Convention. His plan is to get the final draft before the NT constitutional convention scheduled for later this year.

If nothing else, we need to change his mind about proportional representation.

7 thoughts on “A constitutional convention wiki

  1. If living in the one-party state that is the NT hasn’t sold KP on PR, nothing will.

    Even observing the place’s politics from a distance makes me pine for 15-member electorates as a safeguard against a parliament like that in Darwin ever being elected anywhere else…


  2. When the U.S. has its next constitutional convention, I’ve thought that a wiki would be the way to go. The technology and protocols would be more advanced by then.


  3. I agree. Kem’s background is the law rather than political science. The thing is the underlying problem he describes, expenditure being concentrated in urban SMDs in Darwin at the expense of indigenous communities, would be at least partly cured by PR. And as you say, neither side of politics has been particularly impressive at single party governance.


  4. I recall a report by a NT govt (?) body from the early or mid-1990s that set out a draft Statehood Constitution with various options at contested junctures. One was on electoral systems – single-member electorates [1] vs multi-member with PR. Oddly, however, the latter set of wording specified not (eg) “at least three seats per electorate” (as in Ireland) nor “at least five seats, and an odd number, per electorate” (as in Tasmania) nor “a uniform number from 5 to 7 per electorate” (as in Malta), but simply “a uniform number per electorate” (as the South Aust Const Act requires for the State Assembly). So, I take it, 12 or 13 two-seaters, or six or seven four-seaters, would be allowed. I suspect the NSW Local Govt Act has a similar rule for local council wards as I recall some having, eg, 3 four-seaters (with a mayor directly elected by AV this is not a recipe for deadlock as it might be otherwise).

    There is certainly a case for capping the maximum variation in district magnitude between multi-seat electorates (whether you use PR or MNTV – ask the people of the great state of Maine), but exact uniformity is unnecessary and a nuisance. A rule like “no electorate more than twice as many seats as any other” or “no electorate more than two more seats than any other” will do the job nicely.


    [1] I prefer the term “electorates” over “districts” since not all electoral constituencies are territorially-based (eg, Hong Kong, Seanad Eireann, many student councils and trade unions).


  5. The Australian has been running a series of articles criticising the move for NT Statehood: see, eg, “The case against State 7: Concluding a series on the centenary of the Northern Territory, Nicolas Rothwell considers the ‘grand delusion’ of NT statehood” (16 April 2011), Review pp 24-25.

    One recurrent theme (backed anecdotally with some conversations I’ve had with Territorians) is that the white population of the NT is very transient. People move in, make their pile, move out. If one restricted the franchise to NT residents who had lived there, say, seven years, a majority of voters would be Aborigines. Perhaps an idea for an upper house or, if the State of Northern Australia remains unicameral, for a certain proportion of seats (say 5 out of 30) while retaining 3 months’ residency for the rest of the lower house.


  6. There were 2 draft constitutions in the late 90s. Both are linked at the wiki. I am afraid I think the franchise has to be equal. After all a ‘permanent fixed interest’, Cromwell’s phrase, can justify property qualifications as well as anything else.


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