Allan Takes Aim Blog

ACT opinions

Posted on: 26 October 2012

Dear Commentators,

I do not wish to sound ungrateful but, regretfully, I have to say that without your co-operation I may need to add many of you to my list of “spammers.”

Unfortunately many comments are unrelated to the contents of the blog. Many, indeed, are poorly disguised advertorial blogs. So let me spell it out clearly: advertising is a no! no! on this site.

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Importantly this is a free speech column and I am apolitical and so from time to time columns will appear espousing differing views on various subjects. Comments bearing on these subjects will be welcomed in reply.

I should add that contributors to keeping the column going also receive the opportunity of contributing a blog of their own. One such blog was received earlier and one comes at then end of this blog. .
There is still room for twenty contributors so, if you think a free speech blog worth supporting and think you have something worthwhile to say l would be pleased to hear from you. Contact details: (02) 6239 7919 mob: 0409 308 410; and

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Guest blog

Time for Change in the ACT

The current debate about which party has the ‘moral right to govern’ following the ACT Election raises an important question.

No party ever has the ‘moral right’ to govern. The right to govern can only be conferred by will of the people. The question the election raises is simply this – did the result tell us which party the people want to govern them?

My view is it didn’t because our electoral system is broken and needs fixing.

Based on the current count, there will be 8 Labor MLAs, 8 Liberal MLAs and 1 Green MLA.

This means we are likely to have a Labor Government supported by the single Green on the cross bench.

But we can only say that because we know that generally the Greens, for a variety of reasons, are more likely to support the Labor Party rather than the Liberal Party.

Both major parties lay claim to government and both claims have some validity.

However, what will decide who ends up being Chief Minister and forming government has little to do with the election result and more to do with the internal machinations of the relationships within the Legislative Assembly.

To illustrate, if Labor had only won five seats, the Liberals eight and the Greens four, more likely than not Labor would still hold office with the support of the Greens.

Is such a result, Labor holding office with nearly 40% fewer seats than the Liberal Party, reflective of the will of the electorate? Or in the case of Saturday’s election, does the result give a clear indication, or any indication at all, who the people of the ACT want as their Chief Minister or government?

Both Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja received very strong personal votes in their electorates (Zed 29% and Katy 26%) and both can claim the voters have endorsed them as the next Chief Minister.

But again, the will of the voters won’t dictate who is Chief Minister and who forms government.

That will be done via a vote on the floor of the Legislative Assembly where the votes cast by the public will mean much less than who likes who in the chamber.

While more than 230,000 ballots were cast last Saturday, only the vote of one person will truly matter.

This isn’t fair and it certainly isn’t democratic.

Why should one solitary Member of the Legislative Assembly decide who the Chief Minister will be and who governs Canberra for the next four years?
Our electoral system is far too complex for a jurisdiction the size of the ACT. Moreover, the will of the people does not translate directly into who governs them.

It is time to change our electoral and governmental system.
We need simplification and we need to ensure the people get a chance to express who they prefer as Chief Minister.

The simplest and best solution is to move to a direct election of the Chief Minister with a separate vote to determine the composition of the Assembly.

The major parties already campaign on a presidential basis, ‘Team Katy’ etc, so let’s allow the people to vote on a presidential basis. Once a Chief Minister is elected, there is the question of what system of government should we have.

There are a couple of different options here.

The first option is for the Chief Minister to appoint Ministers from their own party MLAs as is current practice.

One of the great down sides of this approach is that there simply aren’t enough members of the Assembly to share the workload and do justice to the functions of the chamber. Once you take out four or five members of one party to form a cabinet, plus another to be Speaker, there are simply too few left to manage the substantial and important committee work.
Another option is to allow the Chief Minister, with their direct mandate from the people, to appoint a Cabinet comprised of people from outside of the Assembly.

Allowing the Chief Minister to appoint Ministers from the community, means the pool of talent from which to select experienced and competent people to act as Ministers becomes a veritable ocean.

It also means the Legislative Assembly can fulfil its greater role of being a genuine and effective parliament with the invaluable committee work at its core.

Ministers will of course be subject to appropriate and ongoing oversight and scrutiny, principally through the committee system. Ministers can attend any and every meeting of the relevant Assembly Standing Committees for example. This would be a much more effective and productive form of oversight than the banal charade of question time.

Canberra is sometimes derided as being the ‘petrie dish of Australia’ – doing weird and wonderful things the rest of the country avoids.

Maybe the way we choose to govern ourselves should be one of those things?
At the very least, with the election result still unknown and the will of the people perpetually unclear, it is time to have the discussion.
Jeff House. Rank and file member of the Labor Party.


1 Response to "ACT opinions"

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