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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 3278 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

policy that any favourable referendum result be implemented regardless of later developments or that the later proposed law be again referred to the community.

As I said earlier this week, government by referendum poses some problems in a democracy. Little provision will be made for minority groups and interests. A referendum process on single issues can be captured by well-funded, well-financed self-interest groups at the expense of community welfare and cohesion and minority groups.

Essentially, governments are elected to govern. That means that parties who aspire to government have to take detailed and clearly articulated policies to the electorate to allow proper choices to be made by voters. The government of the day must show the leadership to confront difficult issues. If an issue has to be resolved by government after or between elections, then the government must do so, and it takes its chances at the ballot box in the following election.

In summary, the bill will require a referendum that will be extremely costly and that will be inimical to good planning, to committee process, to reliance on expert advice, on the simple notion that governments are elected to govern.

Those are some of the practical and, although not at a particularly deep level, some of the philosophical objections to this proposal for a citizen-initiated referendum. For more philosophical issues around the meaning and workings of democracy, I am indebted to Mr Moore for the paper he prepared.

Mr Moore: I am about to read it.

MR STANHOPE: I am conceding, Mr Moore. I presume that paper will be the basis for Mr Moore's speech. I hope it is. I agree almost in toto with the fundamental objections to the CIR which Mr Moore outlines in his paper and which we will have the benefit of Mr Moore now addressing. But I would not like my contribution to this debate to be considered as just the issues I have raised, which go more to the practicalities and practical issues of objection to CIRs. I think there are deeper and more fundamental objections which we as a legislature should express and should take into account and which should affect our vote, flavour our vote or determine our position on this. Mr Moore has set them out extremely well. I simply indicate in advance that I support the points that Mr Moore will make on this matter.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (3.34): Thank you, Mr Stanhope, for that introduction. When the idea of citizen-initiated referenda was first raised I was attracted to the idea, except that I always felt some discomfort with the idea. It was in discussion with a friend of mine, somebody with whom members of this Assembly are familiar, Professor Philip Pettit, that I was able to distil exactly what it was that was creating the concern for me. When this was being debated last time around, he suggested that perhaps we could do a joint paper on it. I am indebted to Philip for his work and effort in educating me and in jointly writing the paper with me. The article was published in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association magazine in April 1997.

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