With bipartisan support, the ACT Assembly has passed two bills to increase representation of ACT citizens and enhance democracy in the Territory. The number of electorates will increase from three to five, with five members per electorate - a 5X5 model.
Greens’ MLA Shane Rattenbury said that the model ‘locks in the two old parties and makes it harder for smaller parties and independents to gain representation. I support a bigger Assembly - but one that encourages diversity and broader community representation, not one where democracy loses out’.
On 5 August the ACT’s Select Committee on the Review of the Electoral Act tabled its report. The major parties want to:
- charge taxpayers $8 per vote to fund political parties’ election campaigns
- let parties spend up to $1 million dollars on their election campaigns, and
- debate the $10,000 donation cap – leaving it open to being weakened or removed completely.
Rattenbury is also concerned by potential changes to rules about donations:
At the moment, legislation in the ACT mandates that only individuals on the electoral roll can donate, and election campaign donations are restricted to a maximum of $10,000. Following a NSW High Court decision, the Select Committee advised that part of our legislation may be found to be invalid and should be repealed. In light of this, it appears likely that corporations will be able to become political donors once again. That gives us more reason than ever to limit the influence of vested interest groups over our democracy.
There will be a redistribution of electoral boundaries, including the naming of the new electorates. This process is scheduled to commence after 15 October 2014, when the ACT Electoral Commission will be responsible for appointing a Redistribution Committee. There will be a call for public submissions by the Redistribution Committee and there will be several opportunities for public comment throughout a six to eight-month process. The final determination of the new electoral boundaries will be made by the Augmented ACT Electoral Commission in time for the 2016 Territory election.
Election dates for the Assembly are fixed in legislation, with elections held in October every four years.
In 2013 an Expert Reference Group comprising ACT Electoral Commissioner Phillip Green (chair), Ms Anne Cahill Lambert AM, Emeritus Professor Meredith Edwards AM, Mr John Hindmarsh AM and Ms Louise Taylor conducted a review into the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly. The Group published a Discussion Paper and sought the views of the citizens of the ACT on the appropriate size of the Legislative Assembly of the ACT.
Key questions were:
- Is there a sufficient case to increase the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly?
- If so, what size should the Assembly be?
Fifty one submissions were received. The final report was presented to the ACT Chief Minister in March 2013 and publicly released on 16 April 2013.