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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1669 ..

Petitions—out of order

Old Caretaker’s Cottage—Weston Creek—Preservation—Mrs Burke (20 signatures).

Civil Partnerships Bill 2006—Support for inclusion of the ceremonial component—Dr Foskey (711 signatures).

Gas fired power station—Proposed development in Tuggeranong—Mr Pratt (267 signatures).

Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill 2007

Debate resumed from 6 May 2008, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (8.02): The Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill as it has been presented presents considerable difficulties for the Liberal opposition. Many of those difficulties have been outlined by Mr Stefaniak in his remarks. They go principally to the antidemocratic process that this government wants to entrench.

There is a range of amendments that come from various sources. There are some that come directly out of the commissioner’s recommendations as a result of the review of the last election and there are a number that come from the government. It is principally, but not exclusively, the recommendations that come from the government that give us particular concern.

There are some that have come from the Electoral Commissioner that give me concern, principally the one in relation to removing the provisions in relation to the defamation of candidates. The argument has been put that there are defamation laws already in place and that should be sufficient. But candidates who put themselves forward in an election are more vulnerable than others to defamatory claims. Without the protection of having an offence of defaming a candidate, it would be too often possible to substantially and detrimentally derail someone’s campaign by circulating defamatory material about them.

If we just rely upon the laws of defamation as they stand in the civil courts, the problem is that it takes a very long time for those matters to come to court. And the recompense under the new regime is somewhat modest. In the process, a person who, for instance, has been a member of this Assembly but has been substantially defamed by something which turns out to be untruthful—and maliciously untruthful—may have already lost their seat as a result of the material being distributed and may have to wait some substantial period of time for what are now very modest damages, because there are now severe limitations on damages.

Someone who was a backbench member of the Legislative Assembly and who had a reasonable prospect of being re-elected but did not get re-elected because of defamatory material has, if nothing else, lost a base rate $400,000 in salary over the

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