Legislative Council Tuesday 14 March 2017
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I have a number of concerns about the process as much as the bill itself. Unfortunately I was out of the Chamber when members sought suspension of Standing Orders to enable this bill to be debated today and I would have spoken against that. We received this bill and bill package on Friday and there has been a long weekend, which means it is very difficult to consult with people in the meantime.
A couple of questions for the member for Western Tiers in bringing forward this bill. Who did he consult with in regard to this?
It would be really important for us - particularly after the member for Rumney's contribution which I think has confused many of us; I speak for myself but other people are looking quite puzzled at times around the Chamber. It is imperative we have a briefing from the Electoral Commissioner to understand the implications of this bill. I would also suggest Mike Blake, who is the chair of the current Redistribution Committee, to see what it would actually mean.
The member for Rumney talked about having to recommence that whole assessment process and I do not know if that is right or wrong. I have not had any communication with the member for Western Tiers or the member for Rumney, or any other members who have been involved in progressing this idea. Maybe it is because I have been doing other things.
There are so many unknowns about it, and add that to the fact that this would effectively interfere in a current process. The member for Western Tiers in his second reading speech actually said that. He said it would inform current and future Redistribution Committees. He clearly identified that it is to relate to the current distribution process. That is fraught with interfering in a current process. If you do not like the process, in the middle of it is not the time to change it. That is a very dangerous precedent and if the process had not started then there was possibly a time that you could have raised these concerns and done it. I know the proposed redistribution results in significant change, as the member for Western Tiers alluded to in his speech. It is not just that Western Tiers disappears, Apsley disappears as well and much of Rumney has moved into another electorate.
It is always going to affect someone's electorate. Whenever a change to this act is made now or in the future, there is always going to be a member or members - at least two, sometimes three, depending on which year it is - who will be impacted.
When the redistribution proposal was put forward and put out for public consultation, I had a call from the media saying doesn't this give you an unfair advantage over your opponent? I said no, how can it? It does not take effect until after the elections in May. Even if it did, the proposed change to the electorate of Murchison moves it a little distance east. It might take two minutes to drive across it at most. I am sure the member for Montgomery would concur, many people think I am their member anyway and they contact my office. It probably happens the same way from the other side of Burnie to the member for Montgomery. People do not really know exactly where that boundary is but it is a creek and a road, a two mile line, on the south are yours and on the north they are mine. The media do not understand this and they want to write a big story about how I have been given a free kick. It does not add more travel time, in terms of people, yes, but Murchison has less people anyway because more people have moved out of the west coast and other parts of the north-west and King Island.
My real concern about proceeding with this is publicly it looks bad, interfering in the middle of an independent process. It can look like self interest. The member for Western Tiers was very clear to say that it is not about self interest, but perceptions can be reality. That is a concern. I have not had time to consult. We only received it on Friday before a long weekend. It is really important we hear from the Electoral Commissioner and the chair of the Redistribution Committee at the very least. Even if the member herself has consulted with them, it is important for us to hear their views and the implications for this, particularly after the member for Rumney's contribution. It is a bit hard to know what the reality is. I thought I understood it until then.
Mr President, I plan to move that the debate stand adjourned to enable these briefings to be arranged. I do not know how long that would take.
Dr Goodwin - Mr President, I asked my office to make contact with Mr Hawkey to see if he would be available to come in for this debate. He does feel somewhat conflicted, so he was not all that keen to do that.
Ms Forrest - In a private briefing?
Mr Hall - He is on the tribunal.
Dr Goodwin - I am not sure what we can do about that.
Ms FORREST - Mr President, I need to understand the implications of this bill. I do not have any issue with the requirement to require the consideration of the current census data. That is sensible and generally happens anyway. I support the member for Rumney's comments about the 2016 Census process, it was a bit fraught. We are always relying on the last available census data in any process like this. I am really concerned about proceeding with this, particularly under suspension. Mr Hawkey may feel conflicted, but is there someone else who can advise us adequately on this?
Dr Goodwin - That was a question I also asked to be put to him. The feeling is that the whole office potentially is conflicted by the process.
Ms FORREST - Who can advise us then? If we cannot access this advice and get clarity around the implications of this bill, I simply cannot support it in entirety, even though there are some good aspects.
Dr Goodwin - I can certainly go back and have another conversation and see.
Mr Gaffney - There are a lot of other people who would like to participate in this.
Ms FORREST - I cannot make a contribution until I have heard some of this information. If I do not adjourn the debate I will lose my call. We will keep chatting. It is difficult to know what the reality is in terms of which electorate - if the proposed redistribution looks like it appears it will, when does McIntyre go to an election? When does Prosser go to an election for example? Those things do need to be clarified. I would have thought the Electoral Commissioner could have talked about those at least. There may be areas that he is able to advise on and maybe areas he is not happy to, and he could tell us that.
Sitting suspended from 1.00 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. Resumed from above.
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - I will make a brief comment, Mr President. I appreciate the Leader organising the information session from the Electoral Commissioner and the chair, Mr Blake. It was very helpful. It was really important that we did that. I will not go into the detail of what was said, even though it would be helpful to have some of it on the record. I understand the member for Western Tiers wants to take a different approach, so in deference to that I will conclude my contribution.
Mr HALL (Western Tiers) (by leave) - Mr President, I will seek to withdraw my motion regarding the second reading of this bill. Not many of us have done it, but a private member's bill can be a very tricky proposition. Members raised some matters with me during the luncheon break. I have also had further discussions with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. There may be a better way of proceeding with the intention of the bill. That being the case, and after some considerable thought, I do not wish to proceed with this bill. Another bill will be introduced in the near future. It is a complex matter and I want to get it right.
Mr President, I move -
That the bill be withdrawn.
Motion agreed to.