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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2835


Senator VIGOR(10.32) —On Sunday I put out a Press release dealing with errors and misleading statements in the annual report of the Department of Territories for 1985-86. I have since had it drawn to my attention that some media reports took comments slightly out of context or created further confusion by shortening the copy. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a copy of the Press release so that these misunderstandings can be cleared up.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

DEPARTMENT MISLEADS ON LEGISLATION YET AGAIN

``They've really spoilt a lot of hard and diligent work that has gone into the latest annual report by making serious errors in relation to the self-government legislation,'' said Senator David Vigor, Australian Democrat spokesman on A.C.T. matters.

Senator Vigor was commenting on the Annual Report of the Department of Territories for 1985-86, which is expected to be tabled in the Senate this week.

The Department claims that the mixed electoral system proposed by the government of ten single-member districts and proportional representation for nine places at large in the A.C.T. is similar to that successfully operating in West Germany.

``This fallacious claim has been given wide currency in A.L.P. circles and has spread to those in close contact with the A.L.P. It is about as accurate as the Department's leaked electoral calculations earlier this year which had an analysis of the non-existent House of Assembly elections of 1984?''

``The differences between the A.C.T. proposals and what happens in West Germany are so fundamental as to frighten any government that wants its local members to rule on 40% of the vote.''

Senator Vigor pointed out that the Hare-Clark procedure proposed by the Australian Democrats would ensure that there were no safe seats and that each candidate, no matter from what party, could only get elected if she or he had strong community support.

``The Hare-Clark system produces the fairest results for voters, parties and candidates. The West German system produces fairness for parties but does not give voters a say in which of their candidates get elected. What the government is proposing does not even produce fairness for parties.''

``What is proposed for the A.C.T. by the government treats the proportional representation and single-member parts quite separately. This is so that the A.L.P. will be able to retain government on 40% of the vote. And yet that is one of its objections to the outrageous zonal system in Queensland which was introduced under the Hanlon Labor Government.''

``In West Germany, the membership of the Bundestag from each Land (State of the Federation) is determined by the overall vote for each party in that Land, even though half the seats are decided on a single-member basis. They consciously remove the unfairness that always occurs with single-member electorates.''

``In other words, the West Germans use half the seats to correct the distortions created by single-member electorates. The seats for each party which gets more than 5% of the vote are determined by the d'Hondt method of highest averages, a form of proportional representation inferior to our quota-preferential methods.''

``The difference between this entitlement and the number of single-member districts won is worked out and that many people from the top of the party's list become members of parliament also. Sometimes extra seats have to be created because the results in the single-member seats are so unfair that one party has already got more seats than those to which it is entitled. Voters get no say at all in which candidates from each party will be elected.''

The Department also claims that the A.C.T. Council Bill was opposed by the Opposition parties and the Australian Democrats.

``Along with virtually every Canberran, the Australian Democrats certainly did not support a lot of the out- rageous provisions in the Bill which would have left very little say to the people of the A.C.T. and afforded them no protection at all financially. However, we said that we would vote for the Second Reading, and seek amendments to achieve effective self-government.''

``For instance, we condemned the proposals that the Attorney-General vet each law and give it the all-clear and that the Council could be dismissed at the whim of the Commonwealth. These were among the matters included in the nine pages of amendments that the government eventually circulated.''

In the annual report, the Department points out that at 30 June 1986, the A.C.T. Council Bill had not passed the Senate.

``What is not mentioned is that no time was made available for debate by the government. In fact, because the House of Representatives rose before the Senate, it was not possible for amended legislation to get through in the autumn session. That's why the Democrats suggested holding another election for the House of Assembly and indicated our support for a gradual handover of powers to that body.''