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BLC CONCLUDES HEARING INTO THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL 2017

THURSDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2017

The Bills and Legislation Committee has concluded a one day inquiry into the Provincial Government (Amendment) Bill 2017 on Wednesday 22nd November 2017.

This Bill aims to change the time limit for differing elections of the Provincial Assembly from 60 days to 12 months. This is necessary for two reasons; first to allow voter registration to take place prior to the holding of Choiseul and Western Provincial elections this year, and secondly to work towards the alignment of provincial elections.

The objects and reasons of the Bill further stated; to depart from the default position where elections of a Provincial Assembly must be held on the fourth anniversary of the previous elections.

There are two requirements that the Minister for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening must first meet. Firstly, the Minister must be satisfied that such action is necessary and in the public interest. Secondly, the Minister must have consulted the matter of deferment with the Premier of the relevant province. The Bill does not seek to change these requirements so as to ensure that this power is not abused.

It was stated that in the past, the Minister for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening has either used section 47 of the Provincial Government Act 1997 incorrectly or introduced a new Bill to defer elections of a Provincial Assembly each time the need arose.

With this amendment of the Bill in extending the statutory limit to up to 12 months, it is predicted that there will no longer be a need to introduce a new Bill or seek clarification of section 47 of the Provincial Government Act 1997 each time a circumstances arises in the future whereby the Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening are unable to conduct elections within the timeframe.

Provincial Premiers and MPA’s who have appeared before the Bills and Legislation Committee supported the amendment saying it was also one of their recommendations discussed in their annual Premiers conference.

The Provincial Government (Amendment) Bill 2017 is expected to be passed this Thursday 23rd November, before Parliament adjourns Sine Die on Friday 24th November 2017.

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