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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3006 ..


MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (10.34): Mr Speaker, I present the Community Referendum Laws Entrenchment Bill 1995, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

The Community Referendum Laws Entrenchment Bill 1995 is designed to complement the Community Referendum Bill 1995. It will seek to entrench several major aspects of the community-initiated referendum process established under that Bill through the entrenchment provisions of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. The purpose of the Community Laws Referendum Entrenchment Bill 1995 is to ensure that the Legislative Assembly cannot easily tamper with the spirit of the CIR process. I believe it is important for the people of the ACT to be assured that the laws they initiate and vote for have some degree of constitutional protection. The principles of giving average people the right to initiate their own laws and the right to vote on those laws and see them passed into law if they are supported by the majority of the citizens of the ACT will be safeguarded to a high degree if this Bill is enacted.

In essence, the Community Referendum Laws Entrenchment Bill will entrench the Community Referendum Act and the laws made under that Act. A law that amends, repeals or is inconsistent with the Community Referendum Act will have to be passed by at least two-thirds of the Assembly or by a majority of voters voting at a referendum. The same restrictions will apply to laws that amend, repeal or are inconsistent with the laws that people make through referendum, for the first 12 months that those laws are in operation. These restrictions and the laws caught by the restrictions are explained in more detail in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill.

Entrenchment is not essential to establish or run the community referendum process. However, Mr Speaker, by entrenching that process we will be signalling to the community our commitment to the rights of ordinary citizens to participate fully in the democratic process. In order to entrench the community referendum process, this Bill has to be passed in the same way that it seeks to restrict the Assembly in the future. That means that this Bill will have to be passed by a two-thirds majority of this chamber and be passed at a referendum. A two-thirds majority may not be easy to obtain. Indeed, I think the community can rightly see this Bill as a test of the willingness of the members of this Assembly to show a commitment to democratic principles. The Government is taking this course of action to ensure that the community referendum process is safeguarded. I hope that all members of the Assembly will give proper recognition and support to that initiative. Mr Speaker, we in the Government are fully committed to the idea that the people, not just politicians and bureaucrats, have the power to assume responsibility for fulfilling their democratic entitlements. I hope that the other members of this Assembly share that commitment. I commend the Bill to the house.

Debate (on motion by Mr Connolly) adjourned.

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