I have been reading the somewhat satirical Betoota Advocate a lot lately, which claims to be one of the oldest newspapers in Australia (it actually did not exist until its online edition was introduced a few years ago, in case you are inclined to take it seriously). Hence you might see a resemblance in the style of that masthead’s headlines to what I have used as the title of this post.
Back before the ‘reform’ of the Victorian Legislative Council in time for the 2006 State Election, it was easy to know who all your MPs were. You had your Federal MP (MHR as we used to call them), your State MP (MLA), and the 2 upper house state MPs (whom we called MLCs, and to whom were given the prenominal title of ‘The Honourable’ to mark the fact that the Legislative Council used to represent the Gentry’s interests). [Let’s not mention the 12 senators representing the whole state – that is far too much to remember.]
The MLCs used to be elected to a double term in Parliament, one per election, two in each upper house seat. The upper house seats were called ‘provinces’ and each covered 4 lower house seats. So they could sit and be complacent and colourless for up to 8 years, without being noticed by their constituents.
But there were only two of them, and they were there for a long time, rather than a good time, so you could, if you had more than a passing interest in politics or good citizenship, know who your local MPs all were.
That changed when the 22 Provinces were replaced by 8 Upper House ‘regions’ each covering 11 lower house seats, each with 5 MPs elected by proportional representation.
So much for the lesson in Victorian Constitutional Law.
When you have 5 MPs representing your local upper house area, plus your Federal MP and your lower house state MP, it is quite a lot to remember who all these civic minded individuals are. And because they are only there for 4 years at a time, as well as so many of them, it is very hard to memorise their names or what they do.
A quick look online tells me that my 5 upper house MPs comprise 3 Labor (Kaushalia Vaghela, Cesar Melhem, and Ingrid Stitt), 1 Liberal (Bernie Finn) and 1 Independent (Catherine Cumming).
I will say that I have not heard the names of two of those three Labor MPs before. They do not put anything in my letterbox and are probably busy congratulating themselves on their achievements. Cesar Melhem, on the other hand, has been in the media for a $20,000 fine over breach of rules of the Australian Workers’ Union a couple of years ago, which shows what a fine upstanding representative he is.
As for Bernie Finn, the sole Liberal, I refer you to the following recent link to see all the news unfit to print about this upstanding and devout practising Catholic:
The final joker in the pack is the former mayor of the City of Maribyrnong, Dr Catherine Cumming (the doctorate is in alternative medicine). She currently sits as an independent, having initially won her seat as a representative of the Deryn Hinch Justice Party in November 2018, and promptly resigning from that party as soon as the poll was declared.
This evening when I checked my letterbox, I found a fridge magnet from the aforementioned upper house MP.
I am delighted by this. None of my other upper house MPs have done anything about sending me fridge magnets (or giving any account of what they have done for the area), but I suppose that they have political parties backing them, and in any event, there are lower house MPs in the area to actually represent it (I think I regularly put newsletters and fridge magnets from Bill Shorten and Ben Carroll in the bin).
Of course, the state election is due in November 2022, and Dr Cumming would like to be re-elected. So now, some two and a half years since she started her term by resigning from the party under whose auspices she got elected, it is time for her to start campaigning.
To get her 16.68% quota to win a second term is going to need a lot of personal name recognition, particularly as one of the reasons she gave for falling out with Hinch was acrimony towards the Upper House numbers Svengali known as the ‘Preference Whisperer’, who has helped minor parties win many upper house seats right around Australia.
In recognition of this, I have not tossed out this fridge magnet like the others. Instead, I have hung it upside down on my fridge, in what is a universally recognised sign of distress.