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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3905 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

up, role, history and performance of the Senate and the House of Representatives-indeed, of all legislatures, as Ms Tucker rightly commented.

In the context of the federation as it is, in the context of the Constitution as it is and in the context of the arrangements and relationships that do pertain federally, with the Senate exercising the powers that it does in the federation and in the federal parliament, we would support the assertion that Ms Tucker makes around the role that the Senate plays as that essential check on the powers of the federal parliament. That is essentially the nature of bicameral systems and we see no good reason why, through the proposal championed by the Prime Minister, that that basic position should be changed and effectively render the federal parliament a Clayton's bicameral system, a unicameral system essentially where all power is vested in the House of Representatives and the Senate is reduced almost to a debating chamber with no real or formal role.

The bottom line is that, whilst perhaps some of the language of Ms Tucker's motion is not language that we, the government or the Labor Party, may have chosen, we will support the motion. I am attracted to Mr Cornwell's amendment, but we will, on reflection, support Ms Tucker's motion. I do so in the context of welcoming the debate that has been generated, welcoming the need for us to constantly consider the prospects of enhancing the operations of our federal parliament. We believe that the proposals that the Prime Minister is championing are very self-serving and do not enhance the capacity of that parliament to meet the democratic needs or aspirations of the people of Australia.

I think that to some extent the proposals do patronise the people of Australia on the point which both Ms Tucker and Ms Dundas make, and which I make, that the people of Canberra can be trusted, that they are intelligent, that they are intuitive and that they do know what they are doing when there is a differentiation in the vote between the House of Representatives and the Senate, accepting the disparity that there always is in single-member elections and multiseat elections. I have always felt that it is patronising to assume that the people of Australia cannot be trusted to vote or return governments, parties or individuals in political contests in a way that does reflect their real understanding of the political process and how politics work.

Whilst ever we have a federation and the federal structure we have and whilst ever the states exist and the Senate represents their interests and the people of Australia make educated decisions around who they are voting for, I am prepared to support, and the government in this place, the Labor Party, is prepared to support, the sentiments that Ms Tucker represents through this motion.

MR STEFANIAK (11.55): It is a great pity that the Chief Minister did not go with his gut reaction and support Mr Cornwell's proposed amendment, which he is very attracted to, because it is a far better proposal than this motion.

Ms Tucker came out with a tirade against the current federal government and Ms Dundas mentioned the major parties. A motion such as this one is not necessarily something that this Assembly should be considering. We constantly try to move into the federal field, whereas we are actually a state legislature. If people have significant concerns, they should convey them to the appropriate body, which is the one that the Prime Minister is setting up.

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