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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4807 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

members really believe that democratic institutions should be designed for the benefit of the economy? I find it utterly distasteful that members would seriously say that the functions of democracy come second to the need for business confidence. I guess that, if you have no real justification for your argument, you can make almost anything up.

I return to the point that we had nearly four years worth of government in the Fourth Assembly. Was the community confident then? Was business confident then? I do not think the arguments being put forward by either the government or the opposition justify these changes. The Labor and Liberal parties have decided that political expedience overrides democratic institutions in the territory. The writing is on the wall and this bill will pass today, but I do not think the people of Canberra will thank the Labor and Liberal parties in the long term for reducing their democratic rights.

MS TUCKER (12.02): The Greens will not be supporting this legislation either. I was a member of the Legal Affairs Committee that looked at changing the term from three to four years and I produced a dissenting report. Having gone through the committee process and listened to the arguments, I was not able to conclude that there had been any persuasive evidence given to the committee to extend the term of the Assembly to four years.

There are arguments that a four-year term potentially gives the government more time to develop its thinking. But I do not think that alleged benefit is strong enough to outweigh what I see to be the costs of basically removing voter sovereignty to the degree that extending the term does.

I reject the claim that four-year terms would allow a long-term approach to planning. I think Ms Dundas has made the point pretty clearly that, if you want to move out of the thinking that governments really are guided to a large degree by the electoral cycle because of the pressure to get re-elected, then you have to challenge fundamental approaches to decision making.

To this government's credit, they have produced long-term strategies such as the spatial plan, the coming social plan, the water strategy and so on. Those are documents that look into the long-term future. I think they are important, although I have criticisms of them as to the amount of detail they get down to. That strategic vision is useful but, despite this, I think you will still see a lot of decisions made by this government which are much more in response to immediate and local pressure. That is about the electoral cycle-more than the long-term interests of the people of Canberra.

I think I mentioned this in my dissenting report. It takes about 15 years to see the benefits of long-term thinking brought into social policy areas. It can be much longer when it comes to environmental benefits and protection. I do not believe we see that adequately accommodated by either of the major parties. For that reason, I suggest that extending the term by one year is not a persuasive argument that that will in some way bring about the real shift in thinking that is needed.

The Greens have linked this question with the notion of accountability. I notice that, in its submission, the Labor Party said that loss of voter sovereignty is not such an issue in the ACT because we are unlikely to have a majority government. With this question, the

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