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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3089 ..

MR STANHOPE: I have been aware of the Chief Minister's attraction to the council style of government. I think he has obviously spent some time observing the Queanbeyan City Council and he is attracted by some of the movements there. Of course, the Chief Minister has also expressed some fondness for the prospect of the direct election of the Chief Minister. I guess they are initiatives, and I respect the fact that the Chief Minister has thought about these issues and put forward alternative models.

But one of the concerns I have about the Chief Minister's championing of these issues is the extent to which it sends a message that he, as the Chief Minister of the ACT, as the leader of the government in this parliament, is not all that inclined to defend self-government. In effect, his message to the people of Canberra is that he is more inclined to abandon this format or style of government. There is almost a suggestion that he is a little bit embarrassed to be associated with it; that his membership of this parliament, this Assembly, perhaps causes him to blush a little bit from time to time.

Mr Humphries: Doesn't it do that to you? Don't you blush occasionally here?

MR STANHOPE: Well, aspects of behaviour exhibited here that perhaps reflect certain human foibles perhaps cause one to blush, Chief Minister. I accept that but they are issues around our individual foibles and perhaps idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.

But to the extent to which you, as Chief Minister, champion another form and style of government, it seems to me that impliedly or subliminally you are sending a very strong and powerful message that you join with those that continue to pull this institution down; that you do not believe that this Assembly is worth saving or worth persisting with; that you have some serious doubts about the value of this institution.

Periodically you raise issues around "Let's abandon the Assembly; let's abandon the parliament; let's go to a Queanbeyan City Council style of government for the ACT; let's have a direct election for Chief Minister". These issues were raised before the last election. They are issues which Pettit did not embrace and which the Osborne select committee on governance did not find particularly attractive. Nevertheless, you persist in raising these alternatives. As I say, I respect your right to do so. I think it is healthy for us to have a debate about these issues but I am concerned that you do pull the institution down, that you do not allow us to develop the reputation that any vigorous and vibrant institution needs in order to attract the support of the people that it seeks to serve.

I just say those things almost as an aside or a digression. But it seems to me that we should be a little more muscular about measures such as the government's decision-and a very good decision, I must say-in the bill we are debating today to seek to broadcast the work of the Assembly. In that context, I have certain views about the need for this institution to be just that little bit more user friendly.

Earlier today, in a rather amazing press release, the Chief Minister sought to attack some of my suggestions. To the extent that we are ensconced in a single building that is the entire focus of parliament in the ACT, we need to be sure that people feel comfortable about coming here, that people do not feel there are any barriers to their entry or approach to this place. Indeed, do people know where the Assembly is? I would be interested in the results of a straw poll which asked the people of Canberra where the Assembly is located.

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