Page 1685 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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The Attorney-General’s response to the scrutiny of bills committee’s questions about non-party groupings does not give a solid reasoning for the government’s position, to my mind. The attorney’s position is that independents who want to be grouped together on the ballot paper should form a political party. But, as I have already said, if you dislike someone’s politics, you are hardly going to agree to be in a non-party group with them. And forming a non-party group does not mean being close enough on every issue to warrant forming a political party. Voters know that, and are intelligent enough to appreciate that, while there might be large areas of overlap in candidates’ positions, there are still enough areas of disagreement to warrant their remaining independent from each other. Independents wish to be just that—independent—and a desire to differentiate yourself from the other candidates lumped into the ungrouped column should not mean that you have to join or begin a party.

Given some of the personal ethical gymnastics we witness in this place as, in the interests of party or cabinet solidarity, loyal party members adopt postures that can be palpably offensive to their own personal values, I sometimes wonder whether we would not be better served by coalitions which do include independents. I am not actually advocating such a move, but it should be there as a possibility. It would certainly result in a better system of proportional representation of the many disparate viewpoints that are held on different issues, both in the community and by most individuals. Of course, the idealist who proposed Hare-Clark for this territory imagined that the intelligent voter would use it like that. I do not agree that non-party groups cause confusion amongst voters as to which candidate stands for what—at least no more confusion than candidates being lumped in the ungrouped list at the end of the ballot paper.

I note that the opposition has similar amendments, so I would say there is a great deal of disquiet in the Assembly about this government proposal, and I would ask the government to listen in that regard.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (9.03): The government does not believe that the criticism of these proposed changes is warranted. I have heard over the last couple of weeks a lot of commentary from the opposition and other members in this place that this change is about the Labor Party trying to favour itself in future elections and that it is trying to nobble independent candidates. We have heard Mr Stefaniak make that claim, we have heard Mr Mulcahy make that claim, and we have heard Dr Foskey make that claim. I draw the attention of those members to the report and review of the Electoral Act by the ACT Electoral Commission in 2005. This was the report of the Electoral Commission following the last ACT election.

Was it the Labor Party that recommended the removal of non-party groups? Was it some sinister ploy by party apparatchiks to diminish the role of independents as part of the electoral system? No, Mr Speaker, it was not. In fact, it was the three-person Electoral Commission, comprising Mr Graham Glenn as chairperson, Mr Phillip Green as the Electoral Commissioner and Ms Christabel Young as member, that recommended the removal of non-party groups. I draw to the attention of those members pages 6 and 7 of that report. There are two pages of commentary on the

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