Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (27 June) . . Page.. 2314 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
13 years. It is not a bad place to start. If we agree that the number of voters per member should be 10,000 or lower, we must start at 23 seats.
We need to have an effective ministry and an effective backbench working together, and we need to increase the effectiveness of committee work. When I was in London, I made much of the value of our committee system, to the applause of members of other Commonwealth parliaments. They were quite impressed with the way in which this parliament functions and with the maturity it displayed in parliamentary procedure, given its size and its youth.
The minimum number of members which satisfies all criteria, in my view, is 23. This does not allow for growth, nor does it provide a formula for increases as time goes by. Two formulae which could be applied over time are a ratio of one member to 10,000 voters or less and a ratio that ensures the government backbench is greater in number than the executive.
Further comment is needed in relation to the critical mass of the Assembly. I referred to that earlier when I said the most commonly heard number interstate was 35. The Assembly and the community, in my view, have matured politically since 1989, and thus the community has a greatly increased demand for quality and output from its members.
To increase the size of the Assembly to 21 is to increase the membership by a mere four members. A likely distribution of these four members is one for the government, one for the opposition and two for the cross bench. Mr Speaker, your advice on costing was based on that distribution. My estimation is borne out by your research.
We need to remember what it was like to have four members on the crossbench. The community knew. It replaced two of them with minor party representatives.
An increase of only one member for the government would have no material effect. An increase of three members would have a positive impact on governance in this town, as would an increase of two in the opposition and one on the crossbench.
I am proposing a solution based on an ideal of good representation and, importantly, good governance. Labor's initial preference was for five electorates of five members but, having evaluated additional comment and evidence, I believe that, should the Assembly not allow for growth, 23 members should be the minimum number of members in this place. I concur with all recommendations which do not refer to the size and configuration of the Assembly.
I wish to join the chair of the committee in thanking the committee secretary, Mr Power, for a sterling effort. I thank also the people who provided submissions and those who gave so generously of their time to speak with the committee. I also thank very sincerely my colleagues on the committee: Mr Stefaniak and Ms Tucker. We did a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances, and we did as good a report for the Assembly as could have been done.
MS TUCKER(11.07): I want to clarify the Greens' position on a couple of issues that came up in the committee. The first one is the recommendation that addresses extending the term of the Assembly. The Greens are aware that this is something we should look at.