Lines divide us

1802 Map of Australia (Source)

A decade ago, I worked for the Queensland Government on the Gold Coast. As a part of my job, I had to award contracts for various things. From our office, I could see Tweed Heads in New South Wales, in the distance.

Working for the Queensland public service, it was easier for me to give a contract to a company in Cairns, 2,000 km away, because it was in Queensland and “Queenslanders come first” rather than two a company in Tweed Heads, 20 kilometres away because it was in New South Wales. It may as well have been in Antarctica. It was that parochial. 

At this point, the farce of states and lines on maps drawn up over 200 hundred years ago dawned upon me. A year or two later, while studying my Master of Environmental Management, I learned environmental management techniques undertaken by indigenous people for tens of thousands of years. During this, one of the indigenous teachers said something to the effect… ‘You white people are different. We don’t have lines on maps. We don’t have fences. We don’t have moats. What we do have is respect’. It was another epiphany.

These days I work in sport, and we are geographically closer to the Gold Coast and Brisbane than we are to Newcastle and Sydney. Yet, because we’re in New South Wales (NSW), we affiliate with NSW rather than what’s closer for our players (Queensland). Why does this happen? Because someone, 200 plus years ago, drew a line on a map. The line was drawn in 1859 before trains, cars, planes, electricity, TV and radio and the internet came about. It’s also before football was created (1863).

We’re so held back by states and territories. The USA is the same. The UK and New Zealand got it right. They have no states and territories with two levels of government. 

Overnight in the USA, draconian laws on the termination of pregnancy passed in Texas, with one state removing a right afforded to people in other states. Then here in Australia, the midday news was dominated by squabbling between the states, territories and national government on addressing the global pandemic.

Imagine how different Australia would be today if we didn’t have state and territory governments, or lines on maps, for that matter, as depicted by the picture in this post.

We like to talk about the fact we are one. We’re not. That’s a lie. We’re divided, primarily by lines put on maps over 200 years ago. They serve no purpose today other than to create division, duplication, bureaucracy and inequality. For that, we all suffer.