The Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013 was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament today. Disturbingly, it hands to the ACT Legislative Assembly the power to determine the number of MLAs.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1988 (Cth) (the Act) to grant the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly (the Assembly) the power to determine its own numbers without requiring the Commonwealth to amend its legislation to enact any changes to the size of the Assembly.
The Act currently requires the Assembly to pass a resolution and then have the Commonwealth make regulations to change the size of the Assembly from the specified number of members under subsection 8(2) of the Act.
The Bill provides that any enactment made by the Assembly for the purpose of determining the size of the Assembly will additionally require the approval of a two thirds majority of the total number of members of the Assembly to come into effect.
This Bill does not change the size of the Assembly. It amends the mechanism by which the size of the Assembly can be changed. This Bill effectively removes the Commonwealth’s role in the process of amending the size of the Assembly, and provides the Assembly the power to independently fulfil this function.
This Bill acknowledges the capacity of the Assembly to run its own affairs by granting it increased legislative autonomy, consistent with the success of its self-governance.
Run for your lives.
UPDATE by Johnboy 13/02/13 17:13: Chief Minister Gallagher has expressed her joy at this development:
I am very pleased that the Commonwealth has responded to my request and today tabled the amendments to the Self Government Act which are necessary to allow the ACT Government to set its own size,” the Chief Minister said.
The Amendment was also a recommendation of the review of the Self Government Act by the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure.
“The size of the Legislative Assembly is properly a matter for the Assembly to decide – in consultation with the ACT community and reflects the self government arrangements that have been in place since 1989.
“An increase to the size of the Assembly will still require a 2/3 majority and remains the ACT Government’s preferred approach to ensure that there is bipartisan support for any change to the Assembly’s size,” the Chief Minister said.
The Chief Minister has also commissioned review by an expert panel of the size of the Assembly which is being chaired by the Electoral Commissioner. The panel is due to report at the end of March 2013.
“I hope that the Federal Parliament is now able to see the amendments passed prior to the Federal Election in September,” the Chief Minister concluded.