Archive for November, 2010

21
Nov
10

Statehood and a letter to the editor

The Centralian Advocate printed this letter to the editor:

If the Australian constitution is to acknowledge Aboriginal people as the first Australians then this will likely be a symbolic gesture.  Symbols and acknowledgements can be important; it can lift peoples’ hopes.  Going beyond symbolism will be very difficult because changing the Australian constitution requires broad bi-partisan support from across political parties.  This support exists now, and only to the point of acknowledging the ‘first Australians’, but there is still a long way to go.
Putting the Australian constitution aside, what is more important to us is Statehood because we have the opportunity to design a completely new constitution.  We start with a blank canvass.  A planned convention in late 2011 intends to involve delegates from across the Territory to do exactly this.
What a number of us on Town Council have said, and what we are calling for others to support, is for the new constitution to actively protect and empower regions.  We want a debate at the convention about how infrastructure funds should be spread across the regions, and how people at a regional level can have more of a say as to how they are spent.  The ‘royalties for regions’ program in Western Australia has proved significant for their regions, and we want a similar program built into the new constitution so that it can’t be changed by politicians.  This would benefit Alice Springs, but also those around us. 
One main reason (there are many) is that under our current governance structure the increasing population of Darwin, Palmerston and the new city of Weddell will see a substantive increase in political power.  Regional seats will be swallowed up by the growing capital centre.  To put this in perspective, recently a Minister of the Northern Territory said that 73,000 additional people are expected to live in Darwin and Palmerston by 2025.  Imagine what this will do for the political power of Alice Springs (and the regions)?
It is clear that the local Alice Springs community will be divided about whether to change the Australian constitution, but focusing on our once-only opportunity to design a new constitution as part of Statehood should not be an opportunity wasted.  I urge all to get involved, to be part of the debate and stand up for the rights of our town and our regions

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