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Wednesday, 3 May 1989
Page: 1715

Senator HARRADINE(5.52) —In effect, the Senate is debating Senator Hill's motion to refer to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, for inquiry and report, the method and practice of the first Australian Capital Territory election. As a member of that Committee, I should like to say a few words, some of which will have been said in this debate already. As honourable senators will know, the Committee has a very full plate. As I think the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (Senator Robert Ray) said, it cannot be expected that this reference will be satisfied this year. Because of the nature of the reference, and because of its implications, it will certainly require considerable effort on the part of Committee members and probably on the part of those who are going to make submissions to the Committee. I refer, for example, to the third paragraph of the motion:

(3) That Committee particularly examine whether the deposit required to be paid by candidates is adequate and whether the cut-off level for unsuccessful candidates is set at the most appropriate level.

That will open up the whole aspect of deposits, which is one of the questions before the Committee, presumably perennially. The second paragraph of the motion reads:

(2) That the Committee review the electoral system and the election process with a view to recommending changes which might improve the process and expedite the count.

That will take considerable time. Inherent in it is the question whether the system can be salvaged at all. That might relate to the question whether the electoral system, as distinct from the voting system, is appropriate.

That, of course, opens up a great can of worms-it opens the matter up to political considerations. I am not sure whether the Senate wants the Committee to involve itself in the appropriateness of the electoral system-that is, the number of members in the Assembly; how the numbers are to be distributed; and whether there should be single-member electorates, a proportional system, or whatever. Is it the intention of the Senate that the Committee should engage in such political considerations, or is it the Senate's intention to say to us, `Look, a decision was made by the Parliament in respect of the electoral system. Have a look at the voting system and see whether it is appropriate to be used for the purpose of achieving the result set down by the Parliament.'? That narrows the matter a little and introduces some sort of technical approach.

It may well be that, at the end of the day, the Committee will say that the electoral system is inadequate for the purpose of fulfilling the task of electing members in accordance with what was determined by Parliament. Under those circumstances, of course, it would be up to the Parliament itself to decide whether to change the system of voting or whether to change the basis of the electoral system itself. I agree with all those who have said that some consideration has to be given to this matter. I am sure that if it is referred to the Committee, as proposed by Senator Hill, the Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr Lee, will pursue that task with the vigour and objectivity-not to say the laid-back approach, as the Minister suggested-that we have adopted in other areas. The informality with which the Committee conducts its proceedings is beneficial. We all know what we are about. We have been around the place for a few years now, and I think we understand each other. That cuts out a lot of wasted talk. Having said that, I will not waste any more words.