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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 472..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

this celebration of our national day, and in the context of that celebration not to mention that for indigenous Australians it is a day that they view with real regret and pain.

Tell me that this is not, by omission, a political statement. It is, by omission, a powerful political statement that on Australia Day a person-a politician, a political leader-would not acknowledge that for indigenous Australians, the original settlers, Australia Day is regarded by many as invasion day, a day of enduring pain. Not to mention that-to ignore prior occupation of this nation, to celebrate just the last 200 years, to ignore the previous 60,000 years of occupation-seems to me to be a more powerful political statement than the acknowledgment of that pain.

The trouble with censorship, the trouble with the ban that has been slapped on me, the trouble with seeking to gag your political opponents is that we then have to engage in a definition of what is political. Is it political to mention the pain that Aboriginal people feel at the celebration of Australia Day on 26 January or is it political to refuse even to acknowledge that indigenous people occupied this nation for 60,000 years before Europeans arrived? I will tell you what I think was a blatant political statement. It was not the one I made. It was the ignoring of the pain, the suffering, the dispossession and the disadvantage that have arisen out of those 200 years of white settlement.

This path of censorship is a dangerous path, because one person's definition of "political"is never going to be the same as another person's definition of "political". Mr Hardgrave jumps up and says, "Oh, that's political. He mentioned the dirty word

'reconciliation'. He mentioned the dirty words 'apology' and 'sorry'. Therefore, he is being political. Therefore, let's ban him from the opportunity of participating in these ceremonies."

The speech then went into a discussion around those values which we adhere to as Australians and which we hold dear, values that identify us-egalitarianism, a commitment to a fair go, a commitment to the rule of law, respect for human rights-and, in the context of that, acknowledging that these are great and enduring Australian values, I went on to say how important it was that we protect those values. I went on to say that locking up children in detention camps does not protect them. Not complaining at the illegal detention of Australians in Cuba without charge, without access to a lawyer, is not respect for the rule of law. I think that it was appropriate to say those things.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The Chief Minister's time has expired.

MR PRATT: I have a supplementary question. Chief Minister, have you learnt that citizenship ceremonies are not supposed to be an ego trip for you, but a celebration of new citizens joining our community? Don't wreck the new citizens' day!

MR SPEAKER: A free kick for the Chief Minister.

MR STANHOPE: One thing I have noticed about many occasions on which I think it appropriate that we do address serious issues, such as what it means to be an Australian and what enduring Australian values are, is the extent to which many, particularly the Liberals in this place, simply refuse to engage and we get just dribbles and mindless pap. That is what we get; we have seen it exhibited here again today.


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