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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 89 ..

Wednesday, 14 February 2001

A quorum being present, MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Amendment Bill 2001

Ms Tucker , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MS TUCKER (10.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, when the federal government granted the ACT self-government in 1989, it gave the ACT two key features in its electoral system that are fairly uncommon in state parliaments: a proportional voting system and fixed election dates. These features were seen as being at the forefront of democratic electoral systems because, in the first case, it would make the composition of the Assembly directly representative of voting patterns in the community. In the case of fixed election dates, it would prevent the government of the day choosing an election date that suited itself and thereby giving itself an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Unfortunately the proportional voting system that was first given to the ACT, the d'Hondt system, turned out to have a number of flaws and there were soon calls for it to be replaced. This led to the ACT's first referendum in 1992 on a new voting system, at which the Hare-Clark system received majority support over single member electorates.

In 1994, Mr Humphries presented to the Assembly the Proportional Representation (Hare-Clark) Entrenchment Act to entrench the results of the 1992 referendum. Entrenchment is a term that comes from the Commonwealth's ACT (Self-Government) Act. It means prescribing in legislation restrictions on the manner and form of making, amending or repealing particular laws, such as prescribing the need for a special majority of the Assembly or a referendum. The principle behind entrenching laws is that, once passed, they are not easily changed, except by broad agreement across the Assembly, thus preventing the government of the day from manipulating these laws to its own advantage.

In relation to the Proportional Representation Entrenchment Act, it is interesting to repeat what Mr Humphries said about the significance of entrenching our electoral system. He said that his bill will make clear that the Assembly:

... is of the view that the issue of our electoral system, which is the fundamental machinery of our democratic process, is to be put above politics and is not to be susceptible to manipulation on the basis of a perceived political interest or advantage to be gained by a particular change to that system.

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