Drayton: Rushing measure could muddy the waters
Independent Senator Helen Drayton has said that on principle she supported proportional representation, but warned Government to be cautious in its implementation.
Speaking on the Municipal Corporations Amendment Bill, 2013, at the Senate sitting on Tuesday, Drayton said she had no problem in supporting the bill, but expressed her disappointment in the manner in which the Government was bringing about the measure.
“Be warned of the damage that could be done in experimenting with local government this way and what is recommended here is hardly proportional representation. It is just a little toe in the doorway of that system and that could be a fly in their ointment of PR for the future and destroying any future prospects if not managed properly,” said Drayton.
She said the manner in which the bill came to the Parliament, without consultation with the people, is in itself a contradiction of the intent of the bill.
“So I would urge the Government to think carefully about what it is doing and how many times its enforced errors have self-inflicted pain,” she said.
“I am inclined to support proportional representation because it is a fairer system, given the make-up of our society. I am also inclined to support the bill which I am viewing as a pilot. Caution is the order of the day if the implementation and if what eventually happens at the level, which in our society opens the door for even greater division and bacchanal that obtains right now in local government. This bill could compound it and this is what I am cautioning about,” she added.
Drayton said Government seems to be rushing the measure and this can result in “muddying up the waters” in the way forward with respect to proportional representation.
Local government, she said, should be at the heart of finding solutions for issues such as crime, and therefore it was important for the system to be more inclusive and this could be achieved through proportional representation.
Drayton said proportional representation has equal strength to make local government far more relevant to community life, and it also has the potential to weaken what already exists and bring about greater divisions and the splintering of parties within small communities.
“So there are drawbacks, but this I see as a pilot. I see it as merely a sample approach, testing the waters, and in that context I have no major issues in principle. PR is not just a simple matter of giving minorities a voice. It is a system which calls for a great deal of political maturity and incisiveness and for greater involvement of citizens,” she said.