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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (30 August) . . Page.. 3803 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

I do not see it as a function of the legislature. I do not see how calling this place a council instead of the Legislative Assembly would in any way change the way local government services are delivered. It would not. With the greatest of respect, that is the flaw in the current government's approach.

To some extent this debate is a case of navel gazing, but reflection nevertheless and useful in focusing members minds in the lead-up to the next election on the prospect of a new administration after the election and the challenges this city will continue to face.

MR BERRY (5.07): Mr Moore's motion that this Assembly reaffirms a commitment to good government for the ACT could quite easily have been written to read, "That this Assembly reaffirms a commitment to better government." That is a process we have been going through since 1989.

Mr Moore spoke of the oppositionist position that politicians in this place take in relation to certain matters. He saw that as a negative. You nearly always sees it as a negative if you are in government doing all the positive things. Where you sit is where you stand. Your ideas are coming from the people with their hands on the levers, so they are the issues that we should try to gain agreement on.

Thank heavens, as far forward as I think I can see, there will always be somebody on the other side of the house saying, "I can give you a better government." That is the very nature of the Westminster system and the reason that we ought not to be too critical of the adversarial nature of politics.

Wise people say things in short sentences to you in the street. For example, they say, "It is far better to have you politicians in the parliament belting each other up metaphorically than it is for us people out in the street to be shooting each other. You can make the decisions in the Assembly democratically. If you take democracy away from us, the decision-making process will break down, and we will tear each other apart in the community." Adversarial politics, whilst it has to be well aimed and as gracious as it can be, is fundamental to the development of better government and better democracies.

There are limits to that. I think it was the Albanian president or prime minister who had the awful habit in his cabinet room of shooting ministers who disagreed with him. Thankfully, adversarial politics in this place is guided by a more genteel approach which we inherited from Great Britain. Despite all of their failings, the British have a well-developed image of how a gentleman and a lady should behave. They say that it should happen in the parliament, but it does not always happen. People are people. We have our emotions of regret, fear, sorrow and anger. Everybody has a little bit of mongrel in them, and it comes out from time to time. I do not think I have sat through a term in this place and not seen people exhibit a bit of mongrel when they are passionate about an issue. The passionate exchange of ideas is a fundamental of democracy.

What troubles me is when politicians complain about other politicians who are passionate about what they believe in and complain about the adversarial nature of politics to further themselves in the community rather than explaining better what the adversarial nature of politics is about. It also troubles me when the complaint about adversarial politics is used as a distraction from the issues.

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