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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4376 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

will extend the term of the Assembly from three years to four years. This will provide for adequate community participation in the ACT political process, while ensuring that the community benefits from effective government.

A fixed four-year term will provide significant benefits to the community. A fixed term will mean that fewer ACT elections coincide with federal elections, ensuring that local issues receive adequate attention. A fixed four-year term will also generate certainty for business. Disruption to government decision making caused by frequent elections frustrates business investment in the ACT, particularly for those in the community dealing with the planning processes.

A fixed term, Mr Deputy Speaker, will also allow Assembly committees to more effectively study longer term policy issues and trends and monitor the implementation of the recommendations. It will also lead to a saving of $1.5 million over a 12-year period.

Mr Deputy Speaker, there are significant benefits, as I say, for the ACT community from the adoption of four-year terms. There has been considerable effort to garner community views on the issue. The report of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs is the fourth report in five years to consider extending the term of the Assembly. The inquiry was advertised in local papers, and letters inviting submissions were sent to over 40 organisations. There was considerable media coverage at the beginning of the inquiry and people were invited to participate. The majority of submissions received by the standing committee concluded that the term of the Assembly should be extended from three years to four years.

The amendments to the Electoral Act will take effect only after the next election in October 2004, dispelling any concerns about a conflict of interest on the part of current members. Members voting on the bill will have to stand side-by-side with other candidates for election in the next Assembly.

The move to a fixed four-year term is consistent with the trend in other jurisdictions. New South Wales has had a fixed four-year term since 1995, South Australia since 2001. This year Victoria has moved to a fixed four-year term. The Western Australian government has introduced a bill proposing a fixed four-year term, and a fixed four-year term has been recommended in the Northern Territory. The electorates in those jurisdictions, Mr Deputy Speaker, are satisfied that fixed four-year terms do not disproportionately impact on voters' sovereignty.

This bill will ensure that the ACT has an effective government that is responsive to the needs of the ACT community, and I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Parentage Bill 2003

Mr Stanhope , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by clerk.

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