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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1738..


MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

It is astonishing that a woman who was the Minister responsible for electoral affairs in this Territory for so long - over the last four years - should have said so many utterly inaccurate and poorly thought through things about this legislation. In particular, it is surprising that she should have made no reference in the course of her comments to the issue to which the legislation is addressed, that is, the question of depriving political parties of the power to direct the order and structure of tickets and to tell voters for that party for whom they should vote in order to achieve an effective vote for their party. That was expressed in my original remarks as the purpose of this legislation but was not once mentioned by Ms Follett, which is extraordinary.

Some things she did say about this legislation, I think, we need to come back to. I suppose that the most extraordinary statement of all by Ms Follett was her comment about freedom of speech. This woman stood up in this place and attacked the Liberal Government for eroding freedom of speech by taking on legislation to ban how-to-vote cards. That is a very fine comment in isolation but cannot be divorced from the fact that Ms Follett has a record, and on her record are a number of comments in the past about issues to do with freedom of speech, in particular, the issue of freedom of speech in conjunction with the Federal Government's former legislation to ban all electronic media advertising, not just on the day of an election but at all times in respect of Federal elections. As I recall, it was meant to apply to State elections as well. It was a blanket ban on electronic advertising in this country.

If Ms Follett is serious about being opposed to erosion of the freedom of speech, if she really believes that people have the right to express their point of view on election day, she surely would believe that they have the same right to exercise their point of view on the other 364 days of the year. But not Ms Rosemary Follett. No, this extraordinary lady believes that it is possible to see how-to-vote cards as being a great bastion of free expression, but all the other ways in which parties communicate with their voters as being somehow a dark blot on the face of civil liberty. I do not think anybody else in this room, indeed in this world, would believe any such nonsense. If the legislation is to blot the freedom of speech and free expression, I am sure that some years ago a case similar to the one she suggests would have been taken to the High Court, and that has never occurred. It has never occurred because the Hare-Clark provisions in Tasmania enjoy the support of most Tasmanians, and they particularly enjoy the support of both the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania. Indeed, many key features of the Hare-Clark system, particularly the Robson rotation, were introduced by the Labor Party in Tasmania. Although it was originated by a Liberal member of the Tasmanian Parliament, Neil Robson, it was supported by the then Government of Tasmania, which was a Labor government.

However, it is not a point about freedom of speech that needs to be made. This woman stands here and says that she supports free speech and freedom of expression. Yet today, in the caucus of the Labor Party, the right to free expression on issues fundamentally important to moral judgments about this community and where it is heading was denied members of the Labor caucus. Mr Speaker, what a blatant barefaced hypocrite, to come to this place and lecture us about freedom of speech! This woman should be ashamed. This woman should be deeply ashamed.


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