Page 592 - Week 02 - Thursday, 19 February 2015

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Electoral Amendment Bill 2014 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 27 November 2014, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.03): The Canberra Liberals will be supporting this bill. It makes a number of important reforms to our democratic process. Indeed, when you are looking for the right balance between representation, engagement, the ability to participate in the electoral process and the very important mechanisms required to provide for scrutiny and to provide for culpability, these are issues that are ever evolving. They are ever evolving and they have been a matter for debate in this parliament.

They certainly were in the last term. I recall, Madam Speaker, that you were a contributor to that debate then and we have had a number of debates subsequently. But we also had a committee, a tripartite committee, that examined this issue. I acknowledge that Mr Gentleman was on that committee, as were Mr Rattenbury and Mr Coe.

A significant number of people contributed to that debate. They came forward as witnesses. I would commend to people the committee report that was then provided, the bulk of which was a unanimous view from this place. I note that there were elements that Mr Rattenbury dissented from. By and large there was consensus on the matters involved, but often there was disagreement, I guess, on some of the levels to which we would go, one way or another.

The subject of this bill is always difficult. I think it has been informed in many parts not just by the committee but by recent High Court decisions that we have seen in New South Wales with regard to unions and the ability to participate in the democratic process. It has also been informed by, sadly, the lessons learned from New South Wales. There is no doubt that there have been problems in New South Wales, often referred to as the New South Wales disease, that we certainly do not want to see come into this place.

We never want to see what happened in New South Wales come into the ACT. What we are doing here today is taking an important step towards that. I think that it is a very important step. I do not know if we have got it exactly right. I guess that that will be tested. I imagine that this will evolve as we see how it takes effect, but there are a number of important elements to this legislation.

What it does is reduce the cap on expenditure in an election campaign. That is a very important mechanism. It stops the arms race of political donations, political expenditure, on campaigns by reducing that cap in real terms but also in percentage terms. Noting that the Assembly is expanding to have 25 members, essentially it is reducing the amount per candidate from $60,000 to $40,000.

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