Page 3838 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (11.43): We will be opposing this motion to amend the standing orders in relation to members of the public being able to propose matters of public importance for discussion on sitting Thursdays. Ours is a representative democracy where citizens elect representatives to make laws for our territory. It is not the direct democracy that came about in ancient Greece where, for a time, all eligible citizens voted on every single issue, a system that was not only cumbersome and unwieldy but can also harm the rights of the individual by the tyranny of the majority when they succumb to the latest passion or moral panic. Many like to quote Edmund Burke on this matter and I will be no exception. He said:

To deliver an opinion, is the right of all people; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience—these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Others have echoed these principles. James Madison said of direct democracy:

A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.

John Witherspoon, signatory to the US Declaration of Independence and President of Princeton University, said:

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of states—it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.

These concerns are as alive today as they were 250 years ago. The budgetary difficulties of the state of California and the ban on minarets in Switzerland are two examples.

The concept that members of parliament should not determine the proceedings of their parliament is contrary to our way of government and a danger to our democracy. Indeed this standing order would enable any person or lobbyist, citizen or not, to dictate the discussion in this parliament.

When I attended the CPA seminar in Bangladesh earlier this year with parliamentary representatives from five continents I raised this proposal and it was universally condemned, for the reasons I have previously outlined. Instead I heard about the opportunities used by other parliaments in handling petitions which stimulated my proposal on the notice paper for change in this area.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.46): Thank you Dr Bourke for taking the call. I was looking at the next matter. I apologise. Again, this was discussed in admin and

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