JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

ACT Libs call for public's view on MLA numbers

Opposition leader, Jeremy Hanson, far right, with his front bench.

Opposition leader, Jeremy Hanson, far right, with his front bench. Photo: Graham Tidy

Do we need more politicians? Vote in our poll or leave a comment below. 

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher believes debate about enlarging the Legislative Assembly is stalling and this may eventually force the Government to devolve some responsibilities from ministers to non-elected officials.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson on Monday said the Liberal Party had yet to decide whether or not to support an increase in the number of politicians elected to the Assembly and called for public opinion polling to be considered on the issue.

An expert reference group has recommended that the Assembly be progressively enlarged for its current 17 members to up to 35 MLAs.

But any change in the size of the Assembly would require a two-thirds majority of members, effectively giving the opposition a power of veto.

Ms Gallagher said she now thought it unlikely that the issue would be dealt with during this term of the Assembly.

"We can't do this on our own, we needed bipartisan support, doesn't sound like we're going to get it,'' she said

"So, it will require me now to think of what other options we have to make sure that governance remains strong in the territory.''

Ms Gallagher said she would now need to consider how the workload of the ACT's ministers was managed.

"We'd need to consider commissioning a risk audit of governance: that is looking forward to when the population gets to a certain size, when the budget's at a certain size. What arrangements do we need to put in place to ensure that a small executive in a small parliament can manage all of those risks? That's an obvious first step.''

Ms Gallagher said the expert working group had advised to her commission a risk audit if agreement could not be reached on enlarging the Assembly.

"They certainly recommended looking at that and that means that you devolve responsibilities from the executive to non-elected members of the community essentially - that's the way you manage it,'' she said.

The ACT Executive currently consists of five ministers and Ms Gallagher is expected to appoint a sixth minister during this term of government.  The expert reference group had recommended that the ACT have between seven and nine members.

Mr Hanson earlier told the assembly that the Liberal Party was still considering the issue but there had been inadequate public consultation.

Mr Hanson said Ms Gallagher should commission a public opinion poll on enlarging the assembly in the same way it had commissioned research on what Canberrans thought about Centenary celebrations.

"I'm surprised then that the government hasn't thought to do a survey of what the people of Canberra think about doubling the number of their politicians,'' Mr Hanson said.

"If we're going to talk about whether people are concerned about queuing for a hot dog and she thinks that that is something worthy of conducting a survey on, why haven't we conducted a survey of the people of Canberra to say, 'do you want to double the number of your politicians?'''

Mr Hanson said submissions made to the expert panel were not necessarily representative of broader community opinion.

"I think consulting with a group of people who are particularly engaged with the Assembly and saying that is the community showing the will is not the case,'' he said.

Mr Hanson said comparisons between the size of the assembly and other Australian parliaments and local councils were not necessarily valid, because the small size of the ACT meant that MLAs could remain close to their local communities while fulfilling parliamentary duties.

"In other jurisdictions and federally, representatives fly in or out, or drive in or out from remote locations. They only spend a certain amount of time in their parliament, maybe a third of the year,'' he said.

20 comments so far

  • The 'expert' electoral group was headed by the electoral commissioner, scarcely a disinterested observer. Its selective maths has been criticised.

    Ask the electorate what they want, you might get a different answer. Having 25 of them might serve to further dilute their quality and increase their remoteness. They might still be driven primarily by the growth-at-all-costs developers who really shape this town.

    Date and time
    May 09, 2013, 11:46AM
    • How many MLAs does the ACT need? Zero, IMO. Much better to have a town council that focuses on services. Other than to give the ACT a heightened sense of itself, what exactly do ACT laws achieve? They are always superseded by Federal Government laws anyway.

      Date and time
      May 09, 2013, 12:19PM
      • We don't need any more politicians in what should be a local government. Compare this to Brisbane run by local government. We have enough costs in the ACT already than adding extra costs for the residents to pay for in rates and other government charges.

        Date and time
        May 09, 2013, 12:36PM
        • Definitely agree that more attention should be given to 'best practice' -- essentially, where are things being done well, and what are the factors that contribute to this? Brisbane, for example, with a city council government, seems to have made some important decisions about transport infrastructure; I have also heard that they have a better approach to community engagement/consultation. Maybe all of this comes of being a larger urban area, but I'm sure that there are lessons which can be applied here from 'best practice' elsewhere in Australia and overseas.

          Date and time
          May 09, 2013, 1:51PM
      • We should abolish state and. territory.govts,get rid of heaps
        Of politicians and save $50 billion per year. Oi

        Date and time
        May 09, 2013, 1:05PM
        • Think of the money you would save less policitians. Salary, travel, allowances you could save a sh&tload. Save money on elections, get rid duplication. Or just for start get rid of upper house (similar to the senates) in the states that do have them like NSW. How many politicians are there...heaps!

          Date and time
          May 09, 2013, 1:50PM
      • One simple question, how are or who are going to pay for them, the ones there now are grossly over valued and they that know want to add another 50% cost to the public purse.

        OLD DOG
        Date and time
        May 09, 2013, 2:01PM
        • We do not need more politicians in the ACT!! The ACT "Government" is a glorified city council. Half the stuff they do could be outsourced to the private sector. They could cooperate with Queanbeyan and Yass on the delivery of services and save money with joint operations on some fronts. We could also simply outsource some services (like RTA registration) to NSW because we basically have exactly the same systems/ road rules, the only difference is the licence plates. If we got smarter about delivering services more efficiently here, there would be a lot more money leftover to invest in the infrastructure the city will need in the not so distant future, instead of playing catch-up (and very poorly so) all the time.

          Adam Newstead
          Date and time
          May 09, 2013, 2:06PM
          • Look I am all for more elected MLA in Canberra, but not with the Hare Clarke System. Bob Hawke a Labor Leader with vision said" Hare Clarke left the Territory open to a left leaning Governments" ," which meant economic disaster for the people of the Territory" .Even A Labor PM saw a disaster in making .At least Gallagher could fess up and own the situation and the fact she know more MLA's with Hare Clarke means a Left Wing Government.

            Martin Says
            Date and time
            May 09, 2013, 2:14PM
            • In the ACT there never seems to be a shortage of people wanting to be pollies, or pollies wanting to be re-elected.

              However, once elected the cry comes 'Oh we have to work so hard, we need more mates to share this huge workload."

              Come on, give me a break.

              Date and time
              May 09, 2013, 2:14PM

              More comments

              Make a comment

              You are logged in as [Logout]

              All information entered below may be published.

              Error: Please enter your screen name.

              Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Please enter your comment.

              Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

              Post to

              You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

              Thank you

              Your comment has been submitted for approval.

              Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

              HuffPost Australia

              Follow Us

              Featured advertisers

              Special offers

              Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo