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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 126 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

specifically concerned about the power to make up the numbers of the Assembly being devolved to this Assembly in its current form without there being a house of review or without having stop checks, stop measures, on what this Assembly may decide.

I am very wary of this because of problems that have occurred in other jurisdictions. Once you give a body its own power to make up its own numbers there is great scope for abuse of this power. I note that the motion referred to discussions and possibilities. However, I cannot in good conscience support paragraph (1). This is why I am putting on the record that I and the Australian Democrats are concerned. I think we should have a debate on the size of the Assembly, how we implement the institution of powers of review and how we can safeguard against the potential abuse of these powers.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (11.49): Mr Speaker, I am pleased that Ms Tucker has brought this motion forward today. The government is very happy to be engaged in a debate and to see a community debate on the issue of the appropriate size of the Assembly. It is an issue that there has been some discussion over for some time now. I think it is an issue that each of us in this place is aware of, has discussed and has views about.

I have expressed a view that the Assembly certainly does struggle from time to time to fulfil all of its functions as well as it may as a result of its current size. I think the pressure is felt most in the operations of the committee office. We would probably all agree that we would like to be able to develop a more efficient, better and more effective committee system. We have a good committee system as it is but I believe it could be improved quite significantly with an increase in the size of the membership of the Assembly.

There are, of course, in relation to all issues such as this, arguments for and arguments against. I think perhaps the argument against comes down as much to resources and costs as to anything else. Perhaps that is the only argument that I think might be mounted against a decision to increase the membership of the Assembly. It probably comes down to issues of resourcing and perhaps issues around the development of an appropriate model in terms of electorate sizes and the number of electorates, or even potentially the size that we might choose to increase to.

There is a debate that is worth having around these things. The government's view is that that can be best achieved through reference of this particular question to an Assembly committee. My colleague has proposed an amendment to Ms Tucker's motion that achieves that. I think all that the amendment does, in effect, to Ms Tucker's motion is formalise a process of consultation. I think it is much more rigorous and better that we indicate here how we would propose that consultation be carried out and carried forward.

This certainly provides a rigour to the consultation process. Suggestions that the Chief Minister or the government consult with the community is an approach and an attitude that we attempted to take earlier on a previous motion of Ms Tucker's, but I accept the difficulty sometimes of drawing the threads of that sort of motion together in a practical way.

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