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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3150 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Given the current proposals for the increased size of the Assembly, the government has brought forward this particular bill. It is a procedural bill and we will be supporting it.

MS DUNDAS (10.40): I am willing also to speak in favour of this bill as it addresses the issue of delaying the process of redistribution of the electorates for Assembly elections and hence is directed at purely a procedural process.

That having been said, I hope that all parties think carefully and critically about the proposed changes to the number and size of electorates in the ACT Hare-Clark electoral system. The central and primary purpose of a democratic electoral system-and particularly Hare-Clark-is to translate the votes of the people into a group of parliamentarians that are representative of the votes of the people.

I trust that the members of this Assembly will keep this principle, as well as the Hare-Clark principles entrenched by the people of the ACT, in reaching their conclusions about the future composition of this Assembly.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.41), in reply: Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the support of members of the Assembly for the Electoral Amendment Bill. As has been indicated, the Electoral Amendment Bill is a minor machinery piece of legislation simply to defer the redistribution process that the act currently requires to be undertaken as soon as practicable after the third Saturday in October 2002.

As members are aware, and as the community is aware, there is currently a debate within the Assembly-and there has been a standing committee report on the issue-on the appropriate size for the Assembly, and around an appropriate configuration of electorates should there be an increase in the number of members for the Assembly.

The issues around the appropriate size have long been debated in the Assembly and in the community. The bill before us today does not go to the issue of what an appropriate size of the Assembly might be, how many members we should have. It does not go to the issue of the configuration of the electorates. There are a number of suggestions on the table. The Labor Party has indicated that its preferred position is five electorates of five. However, we of course stand ready to negotiate on that, were there not to be majority support for an Assembly of five electorates of five members each. We believe that will be the best result for Canberra. We believe it is essentially more consistent with the current arrangements than any other configuration.

We currently have two electorates of five and one of seven. If one was to maintain the greatest consistency with the current arrangements and bear the greatest faith with the principles that Ms Dundas espouses, one would support five electorates of five. One would not look just to three electorates of seven and pursue of any sort of crass self-interest that any minor party or Independent might seek to gain from enlarging all electorates to seven. One would look at this thing as a matter of principle and put the best interests of the community first and support five electorates of five.

But, as I say, that is not what we are debating today. We are simply debating an amendment to the Electoral Act to delay the Electoral Commission beginning or looking at the possibility of a redistribution from October 2002 to April 2003.

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