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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3012 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I think the Canberra Times got it right in its editorial of 9 July. I will quote a couple of sections from it. First, the Canberra Times said:

Referendums on complex single issues can be flawed when there is compulsory voting, because the large number of apathetic voters forced by law to attend the polling place are likely to just say "No" if they have not had the chance to research a question in detail. Indeed, that propensity is so high that any government wanting to put an issue permanently into the too-hard basket would submit it to a referendum.

Therein might lie the motivation for the government putting this matter to a referendum. But the other part of their editorial which I think is pertinent, Mr Speaker, reads:

There seems to be an element of democratic paralysis here. The Government appears to be too scared to do anything lest it cost a few votes. The only antidote they can see for that appears to be the referendum. Surely, a better antidote would be to explain to voters why a certain course of action is being embarked upon, and if the Government is convinced that it is the best way to go, it should take the risk that the hearts and minds of voters will follow.

Those are very apposite words, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, I conclude by repeating that victims of the drug scourge want action from the government. They do not want more equivocation, more procrastination, more avoidance of the issue. I believe that if this referendum goes ahead those people most affected by the drugs problem will find the government guilty of using their suffering as some kind of political game to justify this political ploy of conducting a referendum. Mr Stanhope put it in another way, saying, "Make them the scapegoat; that instead of addressing the issues the government is attempting to avoid them through a costly political scam." I assume a couple of hundred thousand dollars is costly.

Members, the question for us is this: do we join with the government in fiddling with the wording of questions rather than addressing the real issues; of conducting a referendum as a ploy to divert people's attention from the real issues of this election instead of developing positive policies to address those issues? I believe the answer is no. I believe that we must take a stand and ensure that the referendum does not take place, and that is in the public interest.

MR HUMPHRIES (Chief Minister, Minister for Community Affairs and Treasurer) (11.24): Mr Speaker, let me start by addressing some points that were made by Mr Stanhope in this debate. Mr Stanhope argued the line that there was a vacuum of leadership on the part of the Liberal Party and that the absence of a clear policy from the Liberal Party was what was being covered up by this conduct of a referendum. I think the truer position is that this Assembly is facing a vacuum of leadership on this issue and needs to have a clear sense of the direction which the ACT community wants to pursue before it takes further steps in this place to-

Mr Berry: And then we don't have to take any notice of it.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, both Mr Stanhope and Mr Kaine were heard in silence. I would ask for the same privilege.

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