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MLAs ponder a bigger house

Date

Peter Jean

Meredith Hunter, Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja outside the ACT Legislatitve Assembly.

Meredith Hunter, Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja outside the ACT Legislatitve Assembly. Photo: Graham Tidy

An extension may be built to accommodate new members of the Legislative Assembly or some members and staff would be moved off-site, if a proposal to expand the size of the ACT's parliament is successful.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has given in-principle support to the ACT Legislative Assembly being granted the authority to determine its own size without approval from the Commonwealth.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher plans to establish an expert working group to examine options for increasing the size of the Assembly from its current 17 members.

The Legislative Assembly, Civic.

The Legislative Assembly, Civic. Photo: Melissa Adams

Ms Gallagher's preference is for 25 MLAs to be elected at the 2016 election, but another option would be to expand the chamber to 21.

The Legislative Assembly chamber in Civic's two-storey South Building was built to comfortably seat 25 MLAs but there is little if any spare office space.

Ms Gallagher said it was possible the Assembly building could be extended but it was unlikely a third-storey would be approved.

A more likely solution would be moving ministers out of the building, as occurs in many other Australian jurisdictions.

''One of the options is that you could move the executive somewhere,'' Ms Gallagher said.

''It could be into departments as they do in some other states where they have a sort of ministerial office, but you'd have to look at the options.''

Based on current pay rates, adding an extra eight MLAs to the Assembly would cost taxpayers more than $2 million in additional salary costs for members and their staff. This does not include the cost of providing taxpayer-funded cars to MLAs.

In the lead-up to the ACT election, the government abandoned plans for a new government office block next to Civic Square which would have included ministerial suites and a sky bridge to the Legislative Assembly.

Before the government considers accommodation for new MLAs, it needs to win approval to expand the Assembly. The federal government will introduce amendments to the ACT Self-Government Act, enabling a two-thirds majority of MLAs to vote to increase the size of the Assembly.

The present 17-member Assembly is made up of MLAs from one seven-member and two five-member electorates.

A 21-member Assembly would probably consist of MLAs from three seven-member electorates, while a 25-member chamber would have five-member delegations from five districts.

Minor parties and independents are more likely to win seats from seven-member divisions.

Despite this, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said he was open to the idea of a 25-member Assembly.

Liberal leader Zed Seselja said negotiations between his party and Labor would determine the future size of the Assembly.

''I think there are a number of other things that we do need to look at in this context,'' Mr Seselja said.

''I think you do need to look at the resourcing of individual members, we need to look at the resourcing of our committee offices. I've argued for a long time that that's been inadequate, so you shouldn't be first expanding the size of the Assembly without addressing those kinds of things as well.''

Ms Gallagher said she hoped the three parties in the Assembly could work together and agree on a plan for expansion.

19 comments

  • Ms Gallagher said she hoped the three parties in the Assembly could work together and agree on a plan for expansion.? Does a party of 1 really have party status?

    Commenter
    Grand Poobah
    Location
    Just down the road from you
    Date and time
    November 09, 2012, 8:52AM
    • There are not enough beds in hospitals, there are not enough doctors or nurses, wait times in ER is measured in many many hours and these politicians want to add MORE politicians. how is that gonna help??,just more snouts at the trough and more taxpayer funded political staffers. IF they want more room let them use demountables like the give to the schools. If Katy Gallagher wants to increase the size of parliament EAT MORE.

      Commenter
      stoney
      Date and time
      November 09, 2012, 9:15AM
      • It seems to me that the Gallagher government is despised by the people before they even start, one only hopes they perform, other wise god help them at the next election. Mind you poor old Shane and I will be on first name bases, I am going for a walk around my suburb this week end with the camera. I am no longer going to settle for sub standard Municipal Services.

        Commenter
        Grand Poobah
        Location
        Just down the road from you
        Date and time
        November 09, 2012, 10:34AM
      • Grand Poobah..... that's a brilliant idea!

        Commenter
        Deutsch
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        November 09, 2012, 12:19PM
    • Given that its the ACT public servants who do the heavy lifting with regards to innovative policy recommendations and implementing the subsequent reforms and services, it seems ridiculous that Canberra needs to be burndened with more local politians. Espectially when the Chief Minister is willing to bribe the lone Green with ministerial status - why on earth would we want more of these morally corrupt people?

      Commenter
      Gina
      Location
      Belconnen
      Date and time
      November 09, 2012, 9:21AM
      • Hey Grand Poobah, DITTO.

        Commenter
        COOL OLD DOG
        Location
        ACT
        Date and time
        November 09, 2012, 9:30AM
        • Yes, under the relevant legislation it does. The ACT Greens are a registered political party with a substantial membership and a representative in the Legislative Assembly.

          Commenter
          Voter
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          November 09, 2012, 9:33AM
          • I really wanted to start living my life again after the election and not wallow in moral outrage but really! You would think the "Minister" actually does all the work and there is no PS support given the frippery being spouted.

            The irony continues to be the party that took the greatest loss according to the will of the people, now controls the people ... I really wonder how long the honeymoon period will last?

            Commenter
            Outraged of Palmerston
            Date and time
            November 09, 2012, 9:51AM
            • get rid of all of them and just elect a "the leader" or "the chosen one".

              Commenter
              Jakuba
              Date and time
              November 09, 2012, 9:56AM
              • Hey Stoney, DITTO.

                Commenter
                COOL OLD DOG
                Location
                ACT
                Date and time
                November 09, 2012, 10:25AM

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