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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 3283 ..

MRS BURKE (continuing):

governing with the community? We want to share it. Modern democracies have evolved from a period when control was indeed in the hands of a chosen few-the aristocracy and the property owners.

We want to consult with the community. We want to work with what the community wants. The community does not want any more power for politicians. The only power that needs increasing is the power of the people themselves.

MS TUCKER (3.50): The Greens will not be supporting this bill, for the same reasons as we did not support the bill when it was presented to the Assembly in 1995 and 1996. We have not seen any changes since then to the circumstances that led to our previous rejection of the bill.

The issue of community-initiated referenda has been around for a long time-fuelled, I believe, by a growing alienation in the community towards our political institutions. Many people feel a sense of helplessness, frustration and powerlessness regarding the decisions being taken by politicians, supposedly on the community's behalf. They believe that politicians have become a law unto themselves and too influenced by various vested interests, which is the line that Mrs Burke apparently agrees with, unless I misunderstood her. It is concerning if someone within a parliament thinks that that is how we operate.

The idea that people should be able to vote directly on issues of concern to them, rather than leaving it to politicians, therefore has some appeal. But it is a very simplistic response that ignores the complexity of public policy-making. The fact that CIR has been promoted primarily by a range of right-wing groups and individuals confirms to me that there is some doubtful reasoning behind CIR. As one commentator in the United States said, the growing popularity of CIR has raised the spectre of something that once seemed unthinkable: not a government of laws, but laws without government.

The Greens are totally committed to allowing citizens to fully participate in the political process. Participatory democracy is one of the four so-called pillars of Green politics. The charter of the Greens, on which our party is based, states that the Greens want to increase opportunities for public participation in political, social and economic decision-making.

We can see a role for community-initiated referenda as part of a broader process of facilitating more community participation in politics, but we certainly do not see CIR as a substitute. We are therefore very hesitant about supporting this bill before we put in place the necessary checks and balances that would prevent these referenda from distorting the comprehensive consideration of important policy issues or from targeting particular minority groups or interests. We believe that greater effort needs to be put into improving the existing political process so that the public does feel more empowered to participate.

The Greens' view on CIR is that we support the extension of mechanisms for community participation in Assembly decision-making, including possibly the use of CIR, but these mechanisms have to be implemented extremely carefully to ensure that the disadvantages of CIR are fully overcome. If this is not the case, they are dangerous to the extreme.

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