One vote, one value referendum needed

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM

ELECTORAL reform and the effects of the drought were the two major issues pushed at the WA Farmers Federation Rural Awareness day last week.

The argument dominating discussions was one vote, one value, which received a mixed response during the day, according to WAFF general president Colin Nicholl.

He said although the fight was not lost, he was not confident at this stage that the Bill for one vote, one value would be opposed.

WAFF is now calling for a referendum to let the people decide.

"It looks as though the Bill will go through the Lower House," Mr Nicholl.

"We are more than aware that this is more about political advantage rather than electoral reform.

"We don't believe they (the political parties) should be involved in deals one way or the other."

Following discussions with MPs on the day, Mr Nicholl said One Nation was supportive of WAFF's position, while the Independents indicated they would support the Bill and the Greens, who would play a vital part in this issue in the Upper House, had been very guarded in their position.

"The Greens are so guarded in their position they're obviously looking at their options," he said.

If there were deals done between the Greens and Labor party, Mr Nicholl sent out the warning that it was possible the Liberals and Labor party could do a follow-up deal to get rid of the Greens in the Upper House.

Supporting the call for a referendum on the issue are the Liberals, who have accused the Labor party (who want the one vote, one value principal in local government elections) of turning their backs on country WA.

WAFF will continue to lobby the Liberal Party in an endeavour to get them to hold their line and not allow any of their members to cross the floor in the Upper House.

The National Party's stance is that the legislation is the biggest threat to country people in the state's history.

Mr Nicholl described the debate as "the biggest fight country people have had in 100 years."

In addition to electoral reform, a matter that will remain a highly contentious issue with WAFF, he said the day of meeting with 60 parliamentarians raised the awareness of MPs of the effects the drought had on the social and business fabric in rural areas.

These issues of rural representation and community issues went hand in hand.

Mr Nicholl said there had been the withdrawal of a lot of government services and a lack of government funding into infrastructure in rural areas, such as roads, schools and health, which were so vitally needed.

Without those services, he said people wouldn't go to rural areas and when the population diminished in rural areas, the fighting strength did as well.

The economic, social and community impacts of the drought highlighted the need for both short and long-term assistance.

Following what Mr Nicholl described as a successful day, WAFF is still pushing for a Rural Debt Summit to address these issues and will be following up the support received from many MPs for this proposal to ensure that the summit takes place as a matter of urgency.



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