Page 1802 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 May 2013
Instead of putting the big reforms in the too-hard basket, we need to embrace the future and make the changes that will ensure our city is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead. We are a growing, innovative and progressive city and we should accept that a strong, viable, representative political system is vital to our future success.
The Legislative Assembly finally has the power to determine its own future, so let us not waste the power that has been vested to us. As the guardians of this Assembly let us demonstrate the leadership that is needed to keep our local democracy strong. I commend the review to the Assembly and ask members to support this vital reform. I move:
That the Assembly takes note of the paper.
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.15): There has been significant debate on this matter, but I just want to debunk a few myths. The Chief Minister said that no change is not an option. Well, it is an option. The opposition will come to a view within a number of months, but we are in no rush to do so. Let me be very clear: this is a Labor agenda. This is being driven by Katy Gallagher as a Labor agenda, and trying to create a myth that no change is not an option is not something I agree with. We are looking at the fine detail of this, but we may come to the conclusion that more than doubling the size of this Assembly, which Katy Gallagher essentially signed off on today saying it is something for which the reference group’s paper provides a blueprint, is not something we are going to rush to.
Katy Gallagher said this had been broadly canvassed in the community and that most of the submissions—were there 30 or 50?—supported increasing the size of the Assembly. Well, this is something that is probably grabbing the attention of about 30 to 50 people and or groups. One of the problems this place had with its establishment 24 years ago was that there was a feeling by the ACT community that it was imposed on us. We had a referendum for which there was a no vote, and then the Prime Minister of the day said, “Well, you’re going to get it anyway.”
Consulting with a group of people who are particularly engaged with the Assembly and saying that that is the community showing its will is not the case. And if you are going to do something so substantive as doubling the size of the Assembly, then engaging with the community is an important thing to do. I do not stand alone in that. An article by John Nethercote, an academic from the Australian Catholic University, talks about the arguments for a larger Assembly being flawed. He says:
It is a long-standing view in Westminster governance (as Benjamin Disraeli explained more than 150 years ago) that there should not be any major change in the body politic unless it has first been put before the people.
In this case it clearly has not.
Later today the Chief Minister will table a paper on the results of surveys that have been done about what people thought about parties down by the lake, what they