Allan Takes Aim Blog

The Assembly’s lucky number -?

Posted on: 17 April 2013

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The Assembly’s lucky number – ?

Choosing the number of MLAs the ACT should have is becoming more and more like a lucky dip every day. What will the winning number be?  Will the number of MLAs stay at 17 or will it increase to 21, 25, 27, 33 or 35. Get your crystal ball out because the answer it will give you is as likely to be right one as the number finally agreed on, not that agreement will be unanimous. As a result the lack of agreement could undermine the workings of the Assembly for years ahead.

Permeating many of the arguments about how many members the ACT needs comes from current ACT Ministers who claim that because their workload is too heavy, the Government doesn’t work as effectively as it should.

They base their workload argument on the fact that ACT Ministers are responsible for functions that in the States would be administered by local councils. That being the case, it is argued, makes an increase in MLAs necessary.

Speaking personally, I would not be unhappy at the number of MLAs increasing to 21, albeit that many people think the best governments seem to be those with fewer parliamentarians. That said, the obvious question is: would the workload of ACT Ministers decrease if their efficiency increased?

The number of MLAs has been a source of contention since the Assembly first sat 24 years ago. Right at the start people not only argued for more politicians but a change in the system used to elect them. Please don’t be confused that this argument meant that Canberrans in general were interested in government. The people interested in changing the system did so because they  wanted as system that would make it easier for their favourite candidates to be elected.

Fortunately however, most of the people elected were serious about the ACT having good government but it must be said also that some of the people elected were more carpetbagger than politician something that quickly showed. In retrospect 17 MLAs was the right number and while some changes to the system ocurred at the nect election the number of MLA was not changed.

So are the arguments of those in favour of change of the number of MLAs now so clear that people will bow to their logic. While I don’t doubt the intellectual capacity of the reference group members appointed by the ACT Government, who I’m sure would give completely unbiased advice, I am convinced nevertheless, that the best reference group would be the ACT Electorate.

This, of course, would necessitate a referendum that could be done by post. The referendum question would also be simple. Do you think Assembly numbers should remain as is 17 or should there be an increase to: 21, 25, 27, 33 or 35 until 2020

The referendum form could be sent out with stamped return envelope so that  the completed form could be returened to the electoral office.

With the electors deciding how many MLAs they think the ACT needs to provide efficient and effective management of the Territory, arrangements could then be put in hand for the next election.

Another advantage of a referendum is that party politics would play no part in the selection process.

Finally, if it’s of any interest, in 1994 former Chief Minister Rosemary Follett also thought that only the electorate should decide on any increase in MLAs.

Comments welcome.


1 Response to "The Assembly’s lucky number -?"

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