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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 7 Hansard (5 August) . .

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Discussion concluded.

Electoral Amendment Bill 2014

Debate resumed from 5 June 2014, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4.28): I indicate at the outset that we will be supporting this bill today.

Democracy is imperfect, but Winston Churchill, in my view the greatest hero of democracy in the past century or more, said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that we have tried. But democracy requires investment. Living in a prosperous city such as Canberra, in a prosperous nation where we all enjoy the benefits of a vibrant democracy, it is perhaps a little easy to take our democracy and our democratic institutions for granted. There will always be bad governments, poorly thought-through policies and mediocre politicians, but at the end of the day, that is the beauty of our democracy: we get to boot the bad ones out and we get to choose who governs us by participating in democracy. We get to influence who those politicians are and what sorts of policies they are going to implement. All of that, which is fundamentally what we are servants of here in this Assembly, requires an adequate investment.

Personally, I am a supporter of the federal system of government where we have the three tiers of federal, state and territory governments and local councils. We have a unique system here with two tiers. I accept that that is probably not particularly efficient in terms of having those three layers, but it dilutes the power of politicians, it brings governments close to the people, and it makes sure that not all the power is controlled centrally. The alternative unavoidably leads to less democratic freedom for the people and eventually less effective government.

That is a bit of a theoretical debate on democracy, but it is important, as we discuss what is a reasonably momentous step in progress on what we do here in this Assembly, that we put it into the broader context of what we are doing here in the first place.

For all of the failings of the various ACT governments over the time since self-government, I believe that in the ACT we are much better off for self-government. But in a democracy you get what you pay for. The question has to be asked: is our investment in the Assembly adequate to provide for effective government—as effective as it could be? In my view, the answer is no. I think it is reasonably clear that the government has come to the same conclusion.

I acknowledge that it was the government that commissioned the expert reference group to inquire into and report on this issue. That group has concluded that the Assembly should increase and has put forward some good arguments for that increase. It has recommended that there be an increase to 25 members across five electorates at the 2016 election. I think that is an appropriate increase. I do, however, disagree, and I


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