Well, BloggerMe: State boundaries - leftovers from a by-gone era

The BloggerMe map addresses the fundamental problem of the States: that they are out of date, and were virtually out of date at the moment of federation, 1901.

Let me explain:

Political boundaries

The boundaries of the States are purely political; they answer no other question than the impossibility in the period from 1788 to 1900 for a governor to take responsibility for all of the colonies on behalf of the Crown.

Too big to control

We have to remember that 1788 - 1850 was a period in which the main means of transport were the bullock teams or a ship under sail, and to go with some heavy luggage or goods anywhere at all, in any direction (even from Sydney to Parramatta), took more than a day, and sometimes several weeks or maybe even a couple of months. So to control six diverse colonies in a big island continent, from one place, was virtually impossible.

Six major centres

The initial focus was the royalty, the King and the 'Mother Country'. The colonies that developed were all on the coast, allowing proper connection with the ‘Mother Country’, and the developments that were happening inland were mainly providing for the colonies on the coast and their powerful elite, in the interests, ultimately, of the Mother Country.

Drawing the line

Unlike the African continent, where colonies were often limited to the process of extraction, with boundaries set up to protect a river that was being used to ship out the goods being extracted, in Australia, the Mother Country saw the whole continent as ‘uninhabited’ and felt the need to stake its claim to ownership of the whole country, in the eyes of the rest of the world. So there needed to be a continuous boundary drawn between areas that could be controlled by the various colonies. This meant, on the whole, a simple straight rectangular division between one colony and another: the ‘border’; a purely political division.

If one looks at the map of Australia, it is obvious that the ruling elites of the various colonies got together at some point and drew an imaginary division between 'yours' and 'mine'. There is nothing more artificial and absurd than the line that describes when one enters 'Western Australia' from the east. If one is travelling west from Adelaide across the Nullabor, there is no moment, apart from an aging sign, to tell you when you have 'crossed over' into WA. It is unaware of mountains, water flow, lakes, road transport, etc.  It is definitely unaware of indigenous communities and their traditions and historical connection with the land. They have been removed from the equation all together.

Where that boundary was likely to be, even the one slightly 'meaningful' border defined by the flow of the Murray River between ‘New South Wales’ and ‘Victoria’ (until you can't use that any more and then it is replaced by an absurd straight line), just represented a measurement of the difference between the power of those powerful elites, say, in Spring Street versus those in Macquarie Street, nothing more, and nothing less, and not at the moment of federation, but much earlier, like at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Who will rule?

So, if you are shipping things using a bullock team, your focus can only be very small. But by the time federation comes along, in 1901, there are big changes at play, with the introduction of the steam engine and locomotives in the 1850s and the combustion engine to drive a car at the turn of the century.

1850 -1900 saw a lot of railway development, and generally speaking the colonies were happy to 'do their own thing' with the main focus on the Mother Country. We know that to be the case because of the different railway tracks adopted by each of the colonies, requiring a change in train when you got to the border. They couldn't even go back into that room and agree on a common railway gauge. But the external influences were for national unity. Nations were gaining more definition right across the world and Australia could not continue forever as six outposts of the Mother Country.

It became more and more urgent for them to get back into that room and talk about the formation of Australia as a nation. No ruling elite in any one colony was yet powerful enough to take charge of the whole country, so federation was needed to combine the country. It allowed different ruling elites, in different colonies, to come together. The existing borders, although already out of date, were not 'up for negotiation' (minimalism - have we heard that before?) and the ruling elites in the colonies (now the 'States') retained their 'special relationship' with King and Mother Country, and if there was ever a dispute between the ex-colonies, it could be worked out by reference back to the Mother Country, via the Privy Council.

The end of the Mother Country

The love of the Mother Country was nurtured by the local ruling elites because it suited their purpose, and the States held on to their independence for as long as they could. But it couldn't last forever. The States lost their right to confer to the Privy Council in 1986, with little or no fanfare.  We were always told that it was that right of appeal that gave the States an independent and special relationship with the Mother Country. There was something majestic and romantic about the notion of appealing to the Mother Country in a dispute between the States or between a State and the Commonwealth.

Now that it is gone, it seems hard to understand why the changes required to bring the States up to date couldn’t have happened at the time of federation, or at any time since. The most romantic notion we can muster these days is half a dozen Treasurers getting into a back room and arguing and ranting and raving and holding the federal government to ransom for an extra slice of the cake. It is obvious now that these changes were always available, we just couldn’t see it because we bought the romantic lies of colonialism, hook, line and sinker.

Political focus is making it impossible to deal with the real issues

If the borders were ‘out of date’ at the moment of federation, they are meaningless and anachronistic in a ‘global’ world. They are holding us back and need to be changed. Because they are political in nature and because the politics focuses on six major centres, it means that it is virtually impossible for the States to focus on the real issues that we are facing.

In the present transport technology of fast trains, and modern transport hubs, and 787 aircraft, what has that border got to do with rail, road, air transport? In the need to protect the river systems, what has that border got to offer? It can't even focus on the Murray River, only one side of it. NSW ruling elite don't even know that the water in the Darling River comes from Northern NSW and Queensland. At the moment of the Internet and national broadband, what purpose does that border serve to education, medical services, technological changes, communication? At the moment the world is facing rising sea levels, what role does that border play?

When Australia becomes a republic, we have a real chance to address this issue, once and for all.

We need a map that is geographic not political

The BloggerMe map introduces the concept of boundaries between States that are not political at all, but are based on the flow of water. At first glance they may appear to be political because almost every large town has its own State, but there is a good reason for this; in a parch semi-arid and arid environment, towns have a natural tendency to develop around the flowing rivers. The boundaries therefore make absolute sense.

And in these times of climate change, water is becoming more and more precious, and so the boundaries make sense in another way. Each new State capital is focussed on a particular river and each river therefore becomes paramount in its own right, not overlooked and forgotten because it is a long way away from the six out of date, anachronistic, centres of political power and influence.

Comments

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We don't need new states, quite the opposite actually. We should adopt the best parts of the English council system. Our councils (in the city areas should amalgamate and become holistic management forces with proportional representation). And the regions should not be forced to amalgamate but instead be encouraged to do so. Regions given native title or those that are controlled by land councils currently should be autonomous and beholden only to the Federal government.


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Rubbish! You want to fix something that ain't broke. 
Maps are political entities because people, not geographics drive them just as you as a person want to drive this one, playing amateur politics. 
Aussies tend to be quite conservative when change of this magnitude is mooted and this is because we already enjoy an excellent system. Why fix what is already good? Well, we don't.
 
look at the current ALP debacle where the ex Union thugs in parliament, from the PM down, are proving to be a mob of thieves and bullies who stole my Union funds to make themselves rich while I had a hard time paying a mortgage.. And you would continue this rot. NO THANKS!!

You start out saying that everything is great, that if it's not broke don't fix it, and then you give us that it is all broke from the PM down. Obviously you would change lots, if you could. Your conservatism is just an unwillingness to have a go, for fear that change could bring with it unknown negatives. I think the moment of a republic could be a great moment, where real change becomes possible and those changes would be in keeping with high ideals. We have a great system, mainly because of a basic Australian fairness and equality, not because it is imposed from above. It works because most people want it to work, and so the performers have to perform. But the States are nonfunctional and I am saying there are real historical reasons for that. No matter what pressure comes from below, they are never going to be any good. And those problems can be sorted, if you base the states on real things that affect our daily lives, like the history of the land in that basin, land usage, water, indigenous history, current production, urban/rural development, mining, By basing the state on something real we lift a big problem, there will be others but they will be more locally based, and more fixable.
 


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