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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 128 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

I think we have on occasions forgotten the problems associated with trying to conduct an Assembly in a democratic sense here in the ACT. Let me say that our concern in many cases about increasing the numbers from 17 to 21 is a concern of what the electorate may think. Might I remind the electorate that if they wish to have a democratic Assembly working here and good governance then they too should recognise that we must have the number of members to enable us to do so. We cannot, 12 years on from self-government, with an increase in population, expect the same number of members to continue to service and to assist our constituents.

I am not a person who believes that this is a negotiable matter. I am happy to have an inquiry, of course. I don't mind whether that inquiry is conducted by the Legal Affairs Committee or a select committee, but I am not a person who believes that this is ultimately negotiable. I believe that 21 members is essential. There are people out in the community who do not support this view. Equally, there are a dwindling number of people out there in the community who do not support self-government, and I believe that there are still some sitting waiting patiently for the government to come and cut their hedges, as it did back in the 1930s. We live in a democracy and all of those views can be tolerated, if not supported. The fact remains that if we are going to have good government in this territory then we need the tools to do it and those tools include, in my opinion, additional members to do the job properly.

I do not believe that Ms Dundas' amendment is supportable. Ms Dundas, as I understood, expressed concern about this Assembly making its own decisions on the number of members. We are a self-governing territory. We should not place ourselves in a situation where we are being dictated to by a federal government. I know there are occasions when federal governments step in and overrule decisions here. None of those moves are desirable, although on occasions they are understandable, and that power obviously resides in the federal government. Ms MacDonald looked at me askance when I said "desirable". I am talking about it from the point of the view of the federal government, not necessarily the Assembly.

However, the fact of the matter remains that we should have control over our decisions here in the ACT. We should not expect the federal government to be the sort of last court of appeal. The last court of appeal is the people of the ACT at the next election. If we do not perform well then we will not be back here in 2004, or whenever, Mr Speaker.

The other point I would make relates to concern about manipulation of the number of members, which I again understood Ms Dundas to infer. If the Assembly makes these decisions, the Assembly itself will control such manipulation. You would have to have collusion from all members here in order to allow that to occur. I do not believe that such collusion would take place because I have much greater faith in individual members of this Assembly that they would not permit that type of thing to go on. So I don't believe we should concern ourselves about that. Again, if such a unique occurrence took place, we still have the electorate to answer to at the next election. So, again, that is the check, that is the balance-not the federal government.

Other states and the Northern Territory make their own decisions in relation to these matters. There is absolutely no reason why we, the ACT Assembly, should not do so as well. I would be happy to support the government's amendment to Ms Tucker's motion.

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