Page 4173 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 26 November 2013

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responsibilities held by the ACT government warrant an increase in the size of the ministry.

I thank both the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hanson, and Mr Rattenbury for indicating their support for this bill. A unanimous vote on this issue will help show the community that this is not a change aimed at anyone’s political advantage but indeed one that is in the public interest. That is my motivation now, as it has been for the duration of the debate and the discussions which surround it.

Members will be aware that in December last year I asked an expert reference group led by the Electoral Commissioner to undertake a review into the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Having considered dozens of submissions and previous inquires, the reference group also discussed the size of the ministry and found compelling evidence that the small size of the Assembly and particularly that of the ministry poses a significant risk to good governance in the ACT.

The difference between this review and those which had gone before is that for the first time the Legislative Assembly has the power not only to determine the number of ministers but to determine the number of members, the size of the parliament itself. The levers, therefore, are in place to reform these two crucial and related areas of need for the Assembly.

While I am pleased to be able to pass this bill today, it only delivers in one of these areas. To expand the ministry without a plan to expand the Assembly itself is not a long-term solution. Indeed, it brings with it some risk of its own. As Dr Allan Hawke said in his review in 2011, in a chamber of 17 members where minority government is the norm, increasing the size of the ministry is not practical, given the need for government members to fulfil other parliamentary roles, including backbenchers participating fully and properly in the ongoing work of the Assembly and its committees. There lies the issue that this bill does not resolve, the fact that to appoint more ministers, while easing the workload on the executive, will do the opposite for other government members. It may well have a similar effect on the opposition.

Contrary to Mr Hanson’s view, I do not believe the answer to this dilemma is to shrink our standing committees and allow opposition majorities to create a far more partisan and less representative committee system. The answer is, inevitably, transitioning to a larger Assembly. This is the divide which still remains in the chamber, a divide we need to overcome if we are to remove the politics from this debate. The experts are united on the need for a larger Assembly.

Since we last debated the issue in May, Mr Hanson has also made some comments that give me hope the opposition may be considering their position in the future. Throughout the marriage equality debate, he spoke of the small size of the Assembly, saying a majority of nine to eight in the country’s smallest jurisdiction is no mandate for a social reform as significant as marriage equality. In order to address this, we move towards a larger Assembly. This debate provides yet another chance for the opposition to consider their position on the larger Assembly.

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