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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3087 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

We owe it to them not to pass legislation which could empower pressure groups, extremists and power elites. We owe it to them not to waste their time and their money with expensive non-binding referendums. We owe it to them not to pass this Community Referendum Bill.

One of the most reprehensible aspects of CIR is that it masquerades as an addition or an improvement to democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen CIR described as a tool of the rich for the rich, and there is no doubt that that is the case. CIR is in fact a tool of the rich and the powerful designed to keep them rich and powerful. It is designed to keep them rich and powerful by relatively disadvantaging the rest of the community and the community more broadly. There is no doubt that the experience in California shows that the community's need for public education and for public health services has been grossly disadvantaged by the power elites' passage of particular referendums aimed at limiting taxes. That is simply beyond doubt, Mr Speaker.

I believe that this Bill will add nothing to the democratic process in the ACT. The risk that we run here is having a similar outcome to that in California. Even if we had only a similar outcome to that in New Zealand, where our legislation had its genesis, then we would be seeing enormous sums of money wasted and decisions taken that quite clearly the Government was under no obligation to implement. I totally reject the basis of this legislation. I believe that this Assembly would do very well by rejecting what I think is a dangerous, expensive and totally unnecessary proposition.

MR MOORE (5.23): Mr Speaker, I chaired a select committee on CIR towards the end of last year. The main recommendation of that committee was that the issue needed further exploration if it were to be dealt with by this Assembly. Members may well remember that I quoted extensively from an article in a major American magazine that questioned the whole issue of CIR in a similar way to Rosemary Follett today. Since that time I have come to believe that CIR will cause much more damage than it will resolve. However, as I approached that committee my inclination was the other way round. Following the committee and following more time to think about it, I have come to my present conclusion. However, if this Bill were to pass the in-principle stage in this Assembly, then it would be worth while finding out more about citizen-initiated referendums and learning particularly from the New Zealand experience, because culturally New Zealand is much more akin to Australia than is Oregon, California or Switzerland.

I am very conscious that the first time that the question of euthanasia was put to a citizen-initiated referendum the issue was carried into law. That law is being challenged now in the west of the United States. I can see that for some issues it may well be a useful device, although I would argue that we as an Assembly are quite capable of putting conscience issues to referendum and I have no problem about putting such issues to referendum. I believe that if there were a ground swell of support for a particular issue to be put to a referendum the Assembly would be responsive to that. To formalise the issue in the way proposed by this legislation, though, seems to me to be inappropriate.

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