Page 3381 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 13 October 1993

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Wednesday, 13 October 1993


MADAM SPEAKER (Ms McRae) took the chair at 10.30 am and read the prayer.


MR STEVENSON (10.31): I present the Voice of the Electorate Bill 1993.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Madam Speaker, four years of surveying Canberrans has shown that they want a greater involvement in democracy, and not just on one day every three years, when with a single vote they supposedly approve about 1,000 policy objectives of a political party. What they want is the right to introduce, amend or repeal laws by direct vote at a binding referendum. This principle, this law, we have called the voice of the electorate. It has often been called a binding citizens-initiated referendum, but it is done by the voice of the electorate. Indeed, the first four letters of that phrase stand for VOTE. This Bill sets out how the citizens will introduce a referendum and then make a decision on the approval or rejection of any proposal.

The VOTE Bill - the Voice of the Electorate Bill - has three main stages. The first stage is the registration. First of all, a group of individuals or an individual decides that there is something they believe the citizens of Canberra should have a right to approve or reject, and 400 people would sign what we call an electors Bill. There is also a requirement that 100 of those people appoint an electors Bill committee of 12 people. They are responsible to guide the process through to a binding referendum. There is much detail in this VOTE legislation. People must work hard, first of all, to ensure that the electors Bill is done correctly. There are requirements to draft the Bill. There are strict requirements about who can work at different stages.

The second stage is the qualification, where Canberrans either accept or reject a particular proposal. There are safeguards in appointing, first of all, those people who collect the signatures of Canberrans for their approval or rejection of the proposal. These people are called electors Bill representatives. They have certain duties clearly outlined in the Bill. Frivolous referenda proposals are deterred. First of all, if 2 per cent of Canberrans indicate their approval for a referendum to be held, at the next general election in the ACT a ballot-paper would be included along with the ballot-paper to elect people to this Assembly. It does not trigger an immediate referendum; it simply has the question or questions put at the next available time. However, if 5 per cent of those people who cast a valid vote at the last election in the ACT, and that would be some 8,000 people, indicate that they wish to have an opportunity to reject or approve a proposal, the referendum would have to be held within three months, and that is a binding referendum.

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