Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 8 May 2008) . . Page.. 1684 ..
us to do would be simply to go away, sort all of this out and come back in June. Clearly, the government has the numbers, but I certainly want to put on the record that that is what I think should occur here. I do not want to see this legislation end up like the planning bill did in 1991, when about 50 amendments were dropped a day or so beforehand, and it took about five years to sort it all out. So I hope that will not happen. At any rate, here we go with the first of these amendments.
Mr Corbell, in his explanatory statement, has indicated that the effect of the court’s decision, and thus the need for this amendment, was to revert to the commonwealth provision that applied before the 2006 change—that is, prisoners serving sentences of three years or longer were not entitled to enrol for federal or ACT elections. In his explanatory statement he says:
This amendment will create for the first time a special ACT-only category of enrolment. Prisoners in this category will be enrolled under the ACT’s Electoral Act but not the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
I think that, for consistency—and it always worries me when we go off on our own little tangent—it would be far simpler if we followed the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
There is provision now throughout Australia for certain categories of prisoners to vote. Some decades ago, there were three classes of persons who could not vote: criminals, the insane and the royal family. That has somewhat changed now in terms of prisoners. However, it is important, for the sake of consistency with the commonwealth and other jurisdictions, for us to adhere to that. I think that makes sense rather than having a special ACT-only category. Accordingly, I will be opposing this amendment.
Proposed new clause 6A agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 13, by leave, taken together and agreed to.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (8.59): I will be opposing this clause. This relates to keeping the provision for non-party groups of independent candidates to have their own columns on the ballot paper. There will be many proposed amendments in this regard. The decision to remove that provision seems to be more about making things simpler for the Electoral Commission and saving money or perhaps removing a perceived benefit that was enjoyed by independent MLAs than about ensuring an open, democratic process for the ACT electorate.
In my in-principle speech I discussed the reasons why the option of non-party groupings should stay. I will, however, further stress that they provide a way for independent and small parties to distinguish themselves in a system that would otherwise lump them all together at the end of the ballot paper. The Robson rotation is supposedly about making ACT elections candidate rather than party based, so removing this right is contrary to that idea. Giving each group the right to equal representation on the ballot paper is a key factor in assisting voters to make their own choices.