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Nationals a reform-free zone

Much has been made of Colin Barnett’s decision to run up the white flag after referendum results in three local government areas, which rejected council amalgamation proposals. It was a humiliating result for a key government reform, strongly promoted by the premier.

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Mt Lawley
This is a classic case of the fallacy of the undistributed middle. Kennedy’s argument (in this and previous articles) can be simplified to three propositions: (1) Reform is good; (2) Reform is change; therefore (3) change is good. As I have previously commented, Kennedy appears not to understand that not all change is reform, the latter having meaning relating to improvement. Simply changing local government boundaries does nothing in itself to bring about improvement. But this time he is having a go at the Nationals simply on the basis that what initially had a degree of self-interest (resisting Barnett/Simpson threats to country local governments) involved a democratic principle that was equally applicable to the metropolitan area. Kennedy also appears not to understand our system of representative democracy. At all three levels of government, representatives are elected by the voters of a defined area, but as well as representing the interests of those voters have a primary responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interests of the entity (country; state; local government district) as a whole. One thing he did get right, though. He wrote: “The premier … asserted that fewer and bigger councils would lead to greater efficiency in the delivery of services”. That is, in fact, all he did – assert it. At no time did he produce evidence or argument to support his assertion – and that was a major cause of his failure. Colin Barnett did train as an economist, but, as I have said in other places, he apparently attended the Economics 101 lecture on economies of scale but clearly missed the one on diseconomies of scale. The latter are far more common than Kennedy appears to think.

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