Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 15 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5587..
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Land and Property Services, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (4.58), by leave: I move amendment No 10 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 5624].
I have spoken to it and I will not speak again.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4:59): I move amendment No 15 circulated in my name [see schedule 3 at page 5629].
This deals with the pre-election period. Again, there was much discussion and examination about the blackout period for a general election. The purpose was to prevent the creation of taxpayer ads that ran up to the pre-election period then being replaced by ads of a similar look and feel for a party. This has been used by the government in the past, in particular with the use of health facilities. The section was intended to provide a clear buffer between government activity and election activity.
This issue is recognised in other jurisdictions. For example, in New South Wales there is a quarantine on all major advertising activities for a period of two months prior to a state election. The only advertising to be exempt during the quarantine period will be publicity that relates to community health and safety issues and appropriate public information and services having clear commercial considerations. However, after discussion, we have accepted that starting at the beginning of the caretaker period is a reasonable compromise. The provision as amended confirms the blackout to the official pre-election period. Furthermore, to address concerns raised in the committee by the Electoral Commissioner, specifically excluded are jobs, tenders and routine ads. In cases of pressing or unusual circumstances, the minister may exempt a campaign in a number of cases. This addresses many of the issues discussed during this development period.
I think the discussion that we had around this particular area is important to reflect on for a moment. We have seen governments essentially using government advertising in the lead-up to an election period followed by party political advertising that is paid for in a seamless transition. We saw a lot of government advertising in the lead-up to the last election before the caretaker period commenced. We saw it in all sorts of areas to promote the government's achievements. I think this goes to the heart of this bill and why it is necessary. We do accept that the bill, as it will be amended, will hopefully be robust enough to avoid much of that. Certainly it will avoid the most blatant examples. I commend amendment 15 to members.