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Wednesday, 3 May 1989
Page: 1716

Senator HILL(5.58) —On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to say that we will oppose both amendments, although I understand that the first will be passed. The reason we oppose the first is that we believe that it is better to give this inquiry some focus-a focus in relation to the existing system, much along the lines of what Senator Harradine has outlined, to see whether, in the words of the motion, changes might be made that could `improve the process and expedite the count'. There is no doubt that, by deleting those words, the Senate is making it clear that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is invited to look at all possible alternative systems for the Australian Capital Territory. To me, that simply takes the debate back by years and touches on issues raised by the Australian Democrats today and by the Government this morning. The Democrats said, `We still favour a proportional representation system and we want to have another go at it'. Senator Ray said that the first preference of the Government remained a single-member electorate system. All that I can see is that the debate will not be advanced because, ultimately, it will come down to a political decision that has to be made in the Parliament-a decision that was made, after a lot of agony, late last year.

I would have thought that the better procedure would have been to accept, as we do, that there is no magic in this particular electoral system. But, presumably, it can be improved with expert advice. With the efforts of Senator Harradine's experienced Committee, it no doubt can be improved. We would be looking for a constructive and worthwhile contribution towards better government in the Australian Capital Territory. That is our preferred position and that is why we prefer the words that we have set out in our motion.

We oppose the second paragraph of the Democrats' motion because we think that the two specific matters raised in the third paragraph of our motion-that is, the deposit level to be paid by candidates and the appropriate cut-off level for unsuccessful candidates-are important questions that should be specifically addressed. We see that as being in no way restrictive but rather simply guiding the Committee on two issues upon which the Parliament can reasonably expect advice from the Committee. For that reason we therefore oppose the second part of the Democrats' amendment.

Amendment No. 1 agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 negatived.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

(Quorum formed)