Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3088 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
Whilst I was initially attracted to the idea of citizen-initiated referendums and whilst on the surface they would appear to be a very democratic process, it seems to me that the more you look at it the more you realise that there would be a transfer of power, and not only in the ways that Ms Follett has said. Power would also be transferred into the hands of the media. In Canberra, where the media is largely controlled by the print media, the power of the Canberra Times is particularly significant. The editorial decision of the Canberra Times on any given issue under a citizen-initiated referendum would have a major impact on the voting. I am not going to say that it would change the vote one way or the other, but I think it would swing a fair percentage of the vote. We all know what it feels like when we believe in something and the Canberra Times or other media run a program against what we believe in. It makes it particularly difficult to get issues up and running. I know that most people in the Canberra Times attempt to run a balanced course through the issues that we deal with. I can think of quite a number of examples where that has been the case. But there are times when that newspaper, like other newspapers, takes an editorial position and follows it through. That would have a major impact. There would be a transfer of power in that sense.
Mr Speaker, I will be opposing the legislation in principle, but I would like to say something else. Mr Humphries has come to us and said that he put this legislation on the daily program today so that it could go to a committee for discussion; but, of course, the way to send something to a committee is the way that Ms Follett and Ms Tucker did it this morning. You move a motion to send a piece of legislation to a committee. However, there is this second method, and that is the one Mr Humphries was clearly intending to use. The standing orders clearly provide that a Bill passed in principle can be referred directly to a committee with a motion. We understand that that can be done.
We have a longstanding tradition in this house that members bring legislation to the house when they want to. Mr Humphries has come over to me to argue that in this case that is not being done, because the Government now does not want to bring it on. I would argue that it is not only on the notice paper but also on the daily program at the wish of Mr Humphries and that they have brought it on. I would also remind you, Mr Speaker, and the Government that this is the last sitting for the year and the Government cannot introduce this same piece of legislation for the rest of this year. However, if they feel strongly enough about it, there is nothing to stop them from introducing it next year. It is not as though they were introducing it at the beginning of the year and we were trying to hold them off. There is nothing to stop them from reintroducing the Bill at the beginning of next year. But it would be very interesting to take this legislation to a vote now to get an understanding of the Assembly's approach to it.
MS HORODNY (5.30): Mr Speaker, the Greens will be opposing the Community Referendum Bill. For a number of years the powers of the Executive all around Australia have been increasing, while the powers of non-Executive members of legislatures have been decreasing. It is a trend that is of increasing concern to many people who value democratic processes. It is unfortunate that some of those same people, rather than seeking to support those who attempt to wrest power back from executive government, collapse at the knees when the Executive announces that it should be allowed to govern.