Bendigo and Ballarat often seem like conjoined twins and this week they can claim another similarity: both have mutterings of unrest and are suggesting we have directly elected mayors.
That’s mayors elected by ratepayers, rather than by fellow councillors. It happened because Ballarat’s Cr Samantha Macintosh has just been re-elected mayor. Bendigo’s Cr Marg O’Rourke was also re-elected and is putting her hat in the ring for a third term.
Ballarat’s more used to multiple term mayors: David Vendy did seven terms on the trot from 2001-08.
There’s something in the Australian mindset which makes us believe our system’s not working and needs a major overhaul. But if the events of the past week in America teach us anything, it’s that the Australian way of running things is fairly simple, understandable and effective.
Here, we have local, state and federal government. Local government has elected councillors, who select a mayor from their ranks. The mayor has no special powers or privileges, but is usually the public face of the council and is most likely the one to deal with other councils and tiers of government.
They must behave or they can be booted out – usually by the state government but sometimes by their fellow councillors.
At a state level, government here has a lower house and an upper house (except in Queensland). The person in charge is the premier, selected by his or her peers. There’s a governor, but that’s just a formal link to the monarch.
At the federal level, the structure is pretty much a mirror of the state governments: a lower house, an upper house and a prime minister. Again, the governor-general is essentially a link with the Old Dart. Except in 1975, but the less said about Sir John Kerr the better.
Now, let’s look at the maelstrom of administration we watched in the US this week as it went through mid-term elections.
It has 50 states, one capital district, five territories and assorted islands with their own government.
There are 3007 counties – a bit like our municipalities, most with elected councillors, police chiefs, fire chiefs, health managers, rat catchers and a directly elected mayor who can overrule them all. Then come states with their upper and lower houses, and a directly elected governor who … yep can overrule them all.
Then, we have the upper and lower-housed federal government with has major elections every two years.
But this is somewhat overruled by a cabinet of non-elected people who get on well with the president and supposedly have their own sets of skills.
Ultimately, there’s the directly elected president – the one ring to rule them all – who has the legal power to block any proposed law, to declare war (under certain circumstances), to launch trade wars and fire nuclear missiles.
That – without the counties – makes it a NINE-tiered administration system, with phenomenal powers vested in just one person.
Often, that doesn’t matter much, except when it does and the nation gets suckered by a billionaire who communicates with the world via 144-character tweets, tells more than 5000 lies in his first two years – according to the Washington Post … and who apparently can’t be removed from office.
Now, what do you think of our system?