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Australian Capital Territory: Minister discusses electoral system

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: One of those who stands to gain or those who stand to gain or those who stand to gain from above the line voting are Ministers who make unpopular decisions. They tend to suffer under Hare-Clark with Robson rotation because they don't have the protection of a party ticket. And one of those seen as vulnerable is Health Minister, Wayne Berry who'll be standing in the seat of Belconnen. Mr Berry's with me now and good morning.

Firstly, can you confirm the Bill to be introduced today does seek to change the term of government from three years to four years.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, you'll have to wait and see what the Bill suggests but if you want to talk about the detail of the Bill the person to talk to is the Chief Minister.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But are you able ... you're not able to rule that out anyway.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, I'm not going to comment on it. When the Bill hits the table that's when people will see all the detail of it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Would you concede that this Bill which I understand includes provision for three year terms. You have no mandate for that.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, I'm not conceding anything. As I said you'll see the detail of the Bill when it hits the table. What I do want to stop is a lot of the nonsense and rot that's going on about this issue. I heard you say, when we first opened this morning, that what is proposed negates Robson rotation, well, that's rot, that is rot. It doesn't negate it. What has been guaranteed is that the referendum result will be delivered and it will be in total and because above the line voting is more popular than Hare-Clark - I think we all know that, 84 per cent of the people in the ACT voted above the line in the last Senate election, over 90 per cent in New South Wales, they'll be given the choice. Now for the Liberals ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Have you forgotten the referendum ....

WAYNE BERRY: No, I ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: .... the referendum question was whether ....

WAYNE BERRY: I haven't ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: .... you wanted a Hare-Clark system or single member electorate system.

WAYNE BERRY: Now, I haven't forgotten the referendum.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Well, let's stick to the referendum.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, I haven't forgotten the referendum and it will be delivered in full.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: It will not be delivered in full, Mr Berry because can I just please - because you're talking a lot of rot here as is Chief Minister - the referendum says you vote - well, I'll finish here - the referendum says you vote for either a single member electorate system or a proportional representation Hare-Clark system as outlined in the Commonwealth's Referendum Options Description Sheet. Does it not?

WAYNE BERRY: Well, and it will be ... as I'm saying to you it will be delivered in full.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Can you see that ballot paper which is in the sheet.

WAYNE BERRY: And that's nothing like the ballot paper that will be presented in the ACT anyway. I mean, that's just an example.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Let me just say this, it says here: 'The ballot paper used will look like this'.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, the news hounds have made up their mind what they want out of this - no wait a minute - the news hounds ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: This is what the referendum says.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, hang on. The news hounds have made up their mind what position they want to support in relation to this Bill. What I've said to you and what the Chief Minister has said to you is that we're delivering in full the referendum result and what we're doing is adding the choice of above the line if people want it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Have you read the ....

WAYNE BERRY: Now, they're not forced, they're not forced, they're not forced to take above the line voting. If they want to vote below the line they can. So, they have the choice. Now, for the Liberals - and I heard Mr Robson talking about his Robson rotation system - for the Liberals to try and remove that choice, I think flies in the face of everything they've said in the past. They're the great choice party.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Look, have you read this ....

WAYNE BERRY: Of course I have.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: .... description sheet. I mean this is the official description sheet, it's part of the referendum question. It says the ballot ....

WAYNE BERRY: And it will be delivered in full.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: No. Well, that means you will have a ballot paper which will not have above the line boxes.

WAYNE BERRY: No, I'm saying Robson rotation and the results of the referendum will be delivered. As well, the extra choice of above the line voting will be offered to people because it's popular, everybody likes it. They like the opportunity to vote above the line and we'll give them that opportunity.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Let me just say this though. You will not deliver a ballot paper as shown here which has no above the line voting. This ballot paper, which is in the official description sheet, ....

WAYNE BERRY: We will ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: .... has no above the line voting.

WAYNE BERRY: We will deliver a Robson rotation ballot paper ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: No.

WAYNE BERRY: .... with above the line voting as well.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: That's not what the Chief Minister said yesterday.

WAYNE BERRY: As well.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: That's not what she said yesterday.

WAYNE BERRY: As well.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: She said: We will deliver what is in the description sheet.

WAYNE BERRY: Well, I'm saying to you that the Robson rotation ballot paper will be delivered in full as well as the extra choice of above the line voting which people have shown they like.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: That's not what the Chief Minister said yesterday, Mr Berry. She said - let me just, be quite clear on this because I did the interview and I presume you've read a transcript or heard it - she said: We'll deliver what's in the description sheet. The description sheet has a ballot paper. There it says this is the one ....

WAYNE BERRY: And we will.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Okay, so you're going to deliver a ballot paper without above the line voting.

WAYNE BERRY: As well as, as well as above the line voting because people like it and they've demonstrated ... they like it even more than they like Hare-Clark.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Sixty-six per cent of people voted in favour of the Hard-Clark system with this description sheet which has no above the line voting. That was the referendum. It is quite clear.

WAYNE BERRY: They voted for Hare-Clark and they'll get it.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: They voted for Hare-Clark as outlined in the description sheet, Mr Berry.

WAYNE BERRY: Matthew, you've made up your mind we might as well agree to disagree. I'm saying to you that the Hare-Clark will be delivered as supported by the referendum. As well, we will offer them the popular choice of above the line voting - the popular choice.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Now, look ....

WAYNE BERRY: And other people want to take it away ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Okay.

WAYNE BERRY: Now, I mean if you want to argue the case for taking away that choice, go for your life but I think it's a sensible outcome and we'll just have to agree to disagree I think.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Yes. Okay, it's been described as the Berry option because it's been put in to protect Wayne Berry in Belconnen.

WAYNE BERRY: Yes, I heard ... first of all, Gary Humphries the Liberal member, talking about that yesterday and I see that Malcolm Mackerras is dancing to the same music sheet today. Well, it's warming to see that the Liberals at least see me as the most, or the biggest threat in Belconnen, and I haven't even been preselected yet. So, interesting eh?

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: What, you're not standing?

WAYNE BERRY: Well, I mean I'll stand for the preselection and see how I go. It's up to the party to decide whether I'm preselected or not. But it is warming to see that ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: But it is going to help you though, isn't it, above line voting - let's face it - because ....

WAYNE BERRY: I don't ... that's not ....

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: The track record of Hare-Clark is that it's pretty hard on individual members.

WAYNE BERRY: No, no. Robson, Mr Robson said a moment ago: It's hard on people who don't work. And I don't think there's any question about how hard I work.

So I mean that's the real issue but it is warming to see that the Liberals see me as a big threat in Belconnen and I haven't even been preselected there yet - interesting stuff.