Electoral Malapportionment: Partisanship, Rhetoric and Reform in the Shadow of the Agrarian Strong-man
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This article revisits the zonal malapportionment and 'Johrymander' endemic in Queensland's electoral system before the Fitzgerald Inquiry and examines how reform was won. Fitzgerald spent little time justifying his intuition that an unfair electoral system eroded accountability, and devolved to the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC) the task of re-writing Queensland electoral law. It did so by adopting precepts well-established in other Australian jurisdictions; the process was one of liberalising, but not ground-breaking, catch-up. The Queensland example is intriguing for the paradoxes it presented. Bjelke-Petersen's electoral manipulations merged pretence with openness. The concept of zonal weighting was given historical and policy justifications and cloaked behind the work of putatively independent commissions, yet its inherent partisanship was a notorious fact. More curious still, the manipulations were unnecessary either as a means of maintaining the conservatives in office or as a legal subterfuge evading constitutional constraints. Rather, Bjelke-Petersen's pointed rejection of democratic pluralism married with the projection of an image of leadership by right. Viewing Queensland's zonal system in the larger perspective of manipulation of electoral maps, this article compares populist strongmen in South Australia (Playford) and Qu颥c (Duplessis) who employed similar rhetoric to entrench themselves in power. Ultimately, as others had, Queensland's government constructed a long-running, but brittle form of agrarian chauvinism, in which the signalling of anti-democratic values inherent in the zonal system was an important rhetorical component. Bjelke-Petersen was proud to govern over, rather than through, democracy.
Griffith Law Review
© 2009 Griffith Law School. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Law and Society