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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1338 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Mr Speaker, for these reasons the government does not support the bill in its current form. However, should the Assembly be minded to support the bill, there are a number of drafting issues that the government considers would need to be addressed. The bill does not remove all relevant references to "independent MLAs", missing references in sections 231B and 237. These changes should be made if the bill is to proceed.

The new provisions related to the annual return by MLAs are problematic in a number of ways. They are inconsistent with other annual return provisions for parties and associated entities as they do not state clearly which, if any, details of the person or organisation paying funds to or receiving funds from MLAs are to be provided in the annual returns. In some respects they require less detail than the current provisions applying to Independent MLAs. Redrafting would be desirable to clarify the intent of these provisions. Notwithstanding an explanatory note in proposed section 230B, it is not clear that personal gifts are exempt from disclosure, as the operation of clause 230B (1) (c) could be taken to require disclosure of any personal gift of $1,000 or more.

Mr Speaker, the provisions requiring the electoral commissioner to make MLAs' returns available the day after the day on which the return is received by the commissioner is inconsistent with the treatment given to all other annual returns, where the commissioner has some weeks between the date returns are due to be submitted and the date returns are to be published to allow time to audit the returns, resolve any problems with the returns and to copy them in a form suitable for public inspection. There does not appear to be any valid reason for making this distinction in the case of these returns.

While Ms Tucker's bill contains several shortcomings, its central point-that disclosure obligations should be imposed equally on all MLAs, not just Independent MLAs as at present-is a reasonable one. Consequently, the government proposes that rather than proceed with the scheme set out in this bill, the Assembly instead extends the existing disclosure requirements currently imposed on Independent MLAs to all MLAs, while leaving the details currently submitted to the Register of Members' Interests held by the Clerk unchanged.

On that basis, the government intends to oppose this bill, while giving an undertaking to include amendments in its forthcoming Electoral Amendment Bill 2001 to extend to all MLAs the existing disclosure requirements currently imposed on Independent MLAs.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.53): Mr Speaker, when the government in September last year introduced legislation to amend reporting requirements for MLAs, Labor supported its intent to ensure that, as far as practical, the requirements are the same for Independent MLAs as those relating to MLAs who are members of political parties. In fact, Labor proposed by way of amendment that, instead of reducing the obligation on Independent members, the obligation on party members should be increased. Labor proposed at that time that the disclosure bar be raised. We proposed that all members should disclose all amounts received by them, all amounts paid by them, and debts incurred by them. In the event, Mr Speaker, as I am sure you and other members recall, only the Labor Party supported that proposition and our amendments were unsuccessful, to say the least.

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