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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1379 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

conducted. It is putting up a proposal for a referendum that entrenches a specific date for an election.

We have seen it demonstrated in this house that members are unwilling to change the date of an election, and I think that will remain the case. If we were already going to a referendum, I think that I would have a different attitude. I think that I would say that this proposal has enough merit to warrant being put with a series of other issues at a referendum. There is still quite some months left before the next election, which is when a referendum would be likely to be held. Under those circumstances, I would be prepared to reconsider my position on this piece of legislation.

I have separated myself from the government on this issue. It may have a different perspective. I do not know what is its perspective, I have to say. We have been rather busy on other things and have not had a chance to discuss this one, which is quite unusual. Normally, even if I have separated myself, I do understand the government's position and perspective because I discuss these things with the government. The other issue is that, should this Assembly have a government that already carries two-thirds of the membership, it would be able to carry such a decision anyway. As I say, the most important part of this matter is really a pragmatic one as to whether this issue warrants a referendum. I think that, on its own, it does not.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (4.38): Ms Tucker's bill is an entrenching law under section 26 of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act of 1988. It as an entrenching law that the Assembly may prescribe restrictions on the manner and form of making particular enactments. To be effective, this bill would have to passed by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly and it must be submitted to referendum and be approved by a majority of electors.

Her bill, if passed, would entrench any law made by the Legislative Assembly that relates to the day on which an ordinary election is to be held, meaning that the current fixed election date and the three-year term of the Assembly would not be able to be changed unless an amending bill was passed by a two-thirds majority of Assembly members or by a simple majority of Assembly members and a majority of electors voting at a referendum. Whilst the government supports the concept of having fixed election dates, it does not consider that there is any demonstrated need to hold a referendum to entrench the fixed election date provisions.

Whilst it is currently possible to change the election date with a simple majority, the difficulty of one party gaining a simple majority in the ACT Assembly under the Hare-Clark system makes it unlikely that any one party would be able to manipulate the election date for its own political advantage. Even if a major party could gain enough support from the crossbench to change the election date, the likely public opposition to any such attempt for short-term political gain would be a very powerful disincentive. In fact, the rejection late last year of the idea of calling an early election demonstrated that the current system is robust enough to withstand opportunistic attempts to bring forward the election date for political reasons.

With regard to entrenching the three-year term of the Assembly, it may well be that the Assembly and the community itself may wish the Assembly to move to a four-year term in the foreseeable future, which would bring it into line with the practice in other states

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