Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 June 1995) . . Page.. 970 ..


That is in section 9. Thus, if my Bill is enacted, it will supersede the form of oath contained in the self-government Act. You could make a case that the Commonwealth, by including section 9 in the self-government Act, intended that the ACT make its own enactment on this matter in due course.

There are a number of reasons why I am moving to make this change at this time. Of all of the parliaments in Australia, this Assembly has the least connection with the monarchy. The Territory does not have its own representative of the Queen in the form of a governor or an administrator, as do all other States and Territories. Australia's Governor-General retains some specific powers in relation to the Assembly, but has, in fact, had no dealings with the Assembly since self-government; nor does the ACT have an Executive Council to advise the Governor-General on appointments, et cetera. Legislation passed in this Assembly is proclaimed and gazetted without reference to anyone other than the Chief Minister, and the Chief Minister alone appoints the ACT's Ministers - quite unlike the situation in other parliaments. Thus, for all practical purposes, the Queen has almost no relevance for the operation of this Assembly or the ACT Government. The Governor-General, who is the Queen's representative, does have some reserve powers; but as yet he has not exercised those powers or expressed any interest in doing so.

Given the reality of our form of parliament and of government, it seems to me an anachronism that members of this Assembly should swear or affirm their allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors. Our job is to represent and to work for the people of the Territory. I believe that we should make it clear at the time that we are sworn into the Assembly that that is where our loyalty, our allegiance, lies. Members may know that changes have been made or are mooted in a number of areas where oaths or affirmations are made. The most notable recent change was to the oath or affirmation made by people taking out Australian citizenship. Candidates for citizenship no longer swear allegiance to the Queen but, rather, to Australia and her peoples. I consider this a much more meaningful expression of their intentions in taking on citizenship than an empty rhetorical expression of loyalty to the Queen. The candidates themselves, it has been my observation, are also much clearer about the meaning of the oath or affirmation now that it is of allegiance to Australia. In fact, I found it very moving at citizenship ceremonies to observe the obvious commitment of those candidates to their new country.

The Oaths and Affirmations Act, which I am seeking to amend, prescribes the wording for oaths and affirmations in a range of different circumstances - for example, the taking of various offices; for witnesses in court; for interpreters into English whether in a written, spoken or sign language; for verification of signatures on documents; and so on. None of these oaths or affirmations includes a reference to the Queen. I think it is true to say that the swearing of allegiance to the Queen is very much the exception rather than the rule.

I am also introducing this Bill in conjunction with the general debate on whether Australia should become a republic. This debate has given rise to questioning the role of the monarchy in relation to the governance of Australia at all levels. I make no secret of the fact that I fully support an Australian republic. I do not believe that it is in any way appropriate for Australia's head of state not to be a citizen of this country;


Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .