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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3913..


MR SMYTH: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, what is the schedule for the elective surgery closures at Calvary and Canberra hospitals over the December-January holiday period?

MR STANHOPE: I do not know the exact details of that. Traditionally, through all of the Liberal years, the Canberra Hospital closed for two or three weeks over-

Mr Humphries: And the Labor years as well.

MR STANHOPE: I know that Mr Smyth is not a prophet. I am just reflecting here. Under your governments elective surgery at the Canberra Hospital always closed over the Christmas holiday period. That practice has continued under this government and will continue. There is a close-down, as there always has been. There was under the Liberals and there is under this government. Surgeries close over the Christmas holiday period and they will again. I am not quite sure what the practice was at Calvary. I am more than happy to get for Mr Smyth the details of what Calvary proposes this year.

Protests

MS TUCKER: My question for Mr Stanhope as Attorney-General is about the government's commitment to protecting non-violent protests and activism as part of our healthy democracy. Minister, during debate on the Crimes Amendment Bill last year-nicknamed hoaxes, for your reference-you went to some lengths to assure members that such provisions aimed at what might be characterised as terrorism are not intended to catch protests and political activism. Your government and you personally have a commitment to human rights which includes the right to peaceful assembly. Monday's news on WIN television ran a story based on the annual report of the AFP. One part of this story reported:

Since September 11, ACT policing has reviewed its needs for incidents such as demonstrations, bombs and the use of lethal force.

It then played footage of the Chief Police Officer describing the specialist response and security group. While I understand that this statement was the station's summary and not what the Chief Police Officer said directly, this does create an impression that there is some blurring of the difference between terrorism and protest.

Can you tell the Assembly what the government has planned or has in place to protect the right to peaceful assembly and to political and other protests which may inconvenience people but which are not in the same category as bombs and the use of lethal force but are, we agree, a valuable part of our democracy?

MR STANHOPE: The government has no plans at this time to amend or adjust the laws as they apply to protests, peaceful assembly or the right that exists for people to engage in peaceful and lawful protest and assembly. We have no intention or plans to affect the right of Canberrans to assemble lawfully and peacefully and to protest. You are quite right. This government does have a commitment to respect for democracy, for democratic institutions and for the democratic rights of people behaving and acting lawfully to do so.


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