Clearly a key current function of state parliaments is the preservation of existing political parties, which would collapse without the jobs and financial support they derive from elected MPs.
Most people who complain about these matters advocate the abolition of state governments. But that would be almost impossible constitutionally and would result in excessive centralisation or put significant administration in the hands of a chaotic system of local government. The answer is to create more states.
This can be achieved by a referendum within the states that would lose territory to the new state. For example the Hunter Valley and northern NSW could become a new state, and the ACT could take in the southern highlands to form another State, leaving Sydney with much less hinterland to worry about, by a vote of only the people in NSW. Any state needs to include at least five federal electorates.
An Australia with, something like, 12 to 15 states sounds terribly radical in these conservative and fearful times, but less than 40 years ago people were deeply concerned about the ACT getting its own parliament instead of being run by the Commonwealth.
In 1901, when the Commonwealth was founded and the six states established, there were about 1.35 million people in NSW, half a million in Queensland and well under 200,000 in Tasmania and in Western Australia. The total European population of Australia then was about half the current population of Sydney.
Fifteen state parliaments, each with one chamber of 30 members, (for a total well below the current number of state MPs) would be cheaper, much more efficient, more locally relevant and answerable, and more encouraging of citizen engagement than the current structure. Each state would have six federal senators.
And each state would have the incentive and the power to reform local government within its boundaries. Mayors, who are generally paid for that role, could automatically sit in the state parliament along with members elected in the normal manner. The fact that the Independent Clover Moore is the Mayor of Sydney and sits in the NSW State Parliament (and has been re-elected to Parliament as mayor) proves that this is possible.
More than a century ago the people of Australia made the effort to update their political institutional structure. They created a national parliament where none had previously existed and converted six British colonies into Australian states. Compared to that effort the formation of a few more states should be easy. But at that time the nation’s leaders were driving change. Now our political leaders are the most conservative and reactionary element of our community. When real change comes it will be like the breaking of a drought.