Page 1677 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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encountering a growing number of people in the ACT electorate who are dissatisfied about various issues. I have seen it happen with other governments around Australia over the years, during my 30-odd years in politics.

As I mentioned yesterday, even back in the Whitlam era, when things were disintegrating towards the end of 1975, I became aware of some significant and alarming changes to the electoral system that were designed to shore up that government having regard to the way in which appointments were going to be made in what is now called the Australian Electoral Commission. We have to be vigilant about governments that see this as a way of hanging on, and I will certainly be opposing reforms that are designed to weaken the democratic system.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (8.32): Elections are the pivotal event in Australian democratic systems and though differing political ideologies have slightly differing views on democracy, both the Labor and Liberal parties have accepted our current system of democracy as appropriate for determining government. Having accepted the mandate to govern, they should therefore be committed to ensuring that the processes remain democratic and any changes are aimed at increasing participation and understanding.

At first reading, this amendment—and here I am referring to the original government amendment—seems to be another example of government housekeeping. Tidying up past legislation, bringing it up to date and lessening the administrative burden on the ACT Electoral Commission are not necessarily bad things. However, the bill is not entirely about housekeeping and I believe that some of the measures put forward by the government should not pass. If they do pass, it should not be without serious debate.

As members have been advised, I have tabled a number of amendments to the bill in order to generate such debate and, hopefully, agreement. Members will also remember that I circulated those amendments—I think towards the end of last year. I notice that other amendments are much more recent. That indicates that people have only very recently started addressing this bill.

I am pleased that the amendment generally tightens the disclosure requirements for the ACT. The Greens encourage a high degree of transparency for electoral funding and $1,500—now $1,000—is a significant amount. In just one of many actions designed to pervert and weaken democratic institutions to serve its own interests the Howard government raised the disclosure threshold to $10,000. I take heart from the Rudd government’s commitment and actions to substantially wind this back.

When financial power is too easily translated into political power the interests of the many become sacrificed for the short-sighted and short-term interests of the few. The latest manifestation of this phenomenon has recently come to light in New South Wales, where the reliance of the New South Wales Labor Party on so-called donations—in this case from developers—has corrupted the planning process and weakened democratic representation in that state.

The Costa and Iemma drive to privatise electricity production in New South Wales would appear to be driven by their ideological fixation with weakening union power

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