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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 10 April 2018) . . Page.. 1183 ..

The government response I have tabled today will guide further consultation, policy development and legislative reform over the next two years. The government has agreed or agreed in principle to 15 of the select committee’s recommendations. The government has noted six recommendations, and has declined to pursue only two for very specific reasons.

The inquiry’s report shows that the Electoral Commission, the Auditor-General, and many submissions to the inquiry can serve as a basis for reform beyond just the recommendations. The government will be pursuing reforms beyond just those recommended by the committee with the following objectives: to maximise the ability of voters in the ACT to participate fully in choosing their representatives; to clarify party and individual obligations around elections and election funding that minimise the burdens of compliance and maximise transparency of campaigning and campaign funding; to ensure that parties and candidates are accountable for campaign activities and fundraising; and to introduce technical changes to ensure that the existing legislation continues to serve its purpose.

Turning first to recommendations that are aimed at maximising participation, the government welcomes the useful recommendations for encouraging voting and making participation easier and more efficient, particularly for people with disabilities. While a number of practical changes to the conduct of elections are directed at the independent Electoral Commission, the government is supportive of innovative ways to promote elections and voter engagement.

The government agrees with the committee that at this time the minimum voting age not be lowered. The government notes that this issue is part of an enduring debate about the inclusion and equality of young people in democratic processes Australia wide and that there are compelling arguments for and against lowering the voting age. Given the significant practical and procedural challenges outlined in the report, the government will not be moving to legislate at this time.

Encouraging participation can and should start at an early age, and in this respect the government notes the committee’s recommendation that the government develop components on civics and civic education as part of the curriculum for years 11 and 12 students in the ACT. The government will consider this suggestion further but notes that civics and citizenship is an important aspect of years 11 and 12 courses such as English, Australian and global politics, geography, legal studies, sociology and history.

Looking at recommendations aimed at clarifying the obligations on candidates and parties, this government supports making requirements simple to understand and apply. This will increase compliance and build public confidence in the electoral system. The government agrees with the committee’s recommendations about reviewing legislation, regulation and practices around the separate and overlapping functions of MLA, member of the executive, political candidate and private citizen. This issue has particularly arisen in confusion about the use of the communications allowance.

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