Gallagher moves on Assembly increase plans

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CHIEF Minister Katy Gallagher is acting on plans to increase the number of politicians in the ACT Legislative Assembly, appointing a five member group to review the effectiveness of an expansion.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher
Gallagher says ACT Election Commissioner Phil Green will chair the reference group, with other members including Louise Taylor, Meredith Edwards, Anne Cahill Lambert and John Hindmarsh.

The group will review the number of electorates as well as the number of members for each electorate, and consult with the community on whether the size of the Assembly should be increased and if so, what the size should be.

Gallagher says the group has been asked to examine if a change to the size of the Assembly is a way of meeting the “wider ranging needs of Canberra’s constituency.”

“The ACT Legislative Assembly began with 17 Members after self government in 1989,” she says.

“Since then our city has grown, our community has changed, our economy and business diversified and we are a regional hub at the centre of one of the fastest growing areas in Australia.

“Despite this, the size of the Assembly remains unchanged. I think after more than 20 years since self government it is time make sure the changing nature of our city and community is properly represented in the Assembly.”

The ACT currently has fewer elected representatives per enrolled electors than any other State or Territory.

Former Assembly speaker Greg Cornwell says he “strongly supports” an increase.

“It’s obvious with around 300,000 people you cannot operate with 17 members, particularly when ministers have so many portfolio responsibilities,” he says.

“The assembly should ideally be 25 members, that is the same as Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. I think an increase before the 2016 election is important, and if it isn’t done in the next 12 months, it will never be done.”

The first meeting of the Reference Group has been scheduled for December 18.

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  1. Increasing the size of the Assembly may be a “priority” for ACT Labor but it is not for most Canberrans. Many still have memories of the dictatorial way self-government was inflicted upon the ACT after two negative referendums, to suit, not the aspirations of its citizens, but the accounting of the Hawke-Keating government.
    Labor did not win the 2012 elections and has no mandate for the increase. There are strong arguments against the manner in which the ACT Labor is proceeding, particularly having the committee being chaired by the Electoral Officer who would normally be an expert witness. He should withdraw at once in order to remain objective. Questions about the objectivity, let alone the expertise, of other members of the “expert reference group” should be raised.
    Ms Gallagher sees the decision to enlarge the Assembly as already made. Somewhat like Pooh Bah of whose Mikado he says: “When Your Majesty says “Let a thing be done”, it’s as good as done, practically it is done, because Your Majesty’s will is law… why not say so?” So do we have a compliant “expert” committee?
    Increasing the size of the ACT Assembly has fundamental consequences for Canberrans now and to come. A referendum was deemed necessary for self-government so why is not a referendum being proposed for altering the number of Assembly members to represent us?

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