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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 8 Hansard (4 August) . . Page.. 3385..

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Electoral Amendment Bill 2004

Mr Stefaniak, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STEFANIAK (10.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This is a simple bill which would change the election day for the Australian Capital Territory from the third Saturday in October to the second Saturday in November. This would not apply, of course, for the 2004 election because we are currently towards the end of this particular parliament and that would be completely undemocratic. It would apply for the next election and by the next parliament. That would mean that instead of having the election on the third Saturday in October 2008 it would be held on the second Saturday in November 2008.

No date is ideal when you are trying to set a date for an election. I suppose there are some people who do not particularly like elections, or even our democratic system. As Churchill said, it might not be a perfect system but it is the best anyone has invented to date. I think it is important to find the best possible date for an election. Interestingly, I have been told that, in the discussions in federal parliament prior to self-government being formalised and when the lead up work was being done, the preferred date of the federal ALP for territory elections was the second Saturday in November.

In 1989, once self-government was announced, which was in late 1988 I think, we had a March election. You will recall that parliament did not start until May, as a result of the d'Hondt system and the length of time taken. Then, when we went to a different election mode under the Hare Clarke system, which started from 1995, we continued with February elections. It was decided in 1997 to move the date of the election from February, for a number of reasons which I will come to, to the third Saturday in October.

It was decided by that particular Assembly that the month of February was not the world's best date, simply because it came on the back of the Christmas break and the holiday period and perhaps did not give optimum time for people to campaign and for parties and individuals to get their messages across. It was therefore decided that October would be a better date, and hence that occurred. Also in that period the Assembly lasted for three years and about eight months. There was then a push to go to four-year terms. That did not happen in this Assembly but of course it will happen in the next Assembly.

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