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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 November 2005) . . Page.. 4409 ..


I do not believe we should accept the repeal of this legislation. The Standing Committee on Legal Affairs (performing the duty of a Scrutiny of Bills and Subordinate Legislation Committee) Scrutiny Report No 18, dated 14 November 2005, actually makes the point:

This Committee is (or should be)—

I think “or should be” is the interesting bit:

informed in order that it might comment on proposals for legislation against its terms of reference. It may assist the Assembly to say that, in practice, this has occurred very rarely. While the Committee has received general information that some agreement is under discussion, there has only been one occasion on which the Committee has had the opportunity to evaluate a proposal for legislation in the way it evaluates proposed Territory laws against its terms of reference.

So there has been a failing, and I suspect it is on both sides. But what is the urgency? This bill was presented in October and it is being debated in November. Is the Chief Minister worried? On 26 October he sent us all a fabulous letter about anti-terrorism legislation. We got a couple of Jon Stanhope press releases. They are great reading if you are an insomniac. They will fix your insomnia, for sure. Then, this morning, the Chief Minister provided further notes on the subject. In bold print the Chief Minister poses the question and then gives the answer:

Will ministers have to table the full text of any intergovernmental agreement (assuming it is not confidential for security matters and noting that it will be later made available on a web site)?

What hypocrisy! What galling hypocrisy! What it means is: no, we are not going to tell you unless it suits our purpose. We are not going to tell you unless the government can make some cheap mileage out of it. We are not going to tell you unless Jon Stanhope, the Chief Minister, can get up on his soapbox and parade around the country as the champion of human rights. The hypocrisy even in the answers supplied is galling, Mr Speaker. Maybe we need a definition of “confidential”. Maybe we need a definition of what is confidential and what is not in this place so that ministers cannot pick and choose which bits they release and which bits they do not.

When presented by the Chief Minister it sounded like this: we have got something in place. It has probably not been working. We have come up with a new system that is going to be a major enhancement. We have worked on this. We found a problem and we are going to fix it. We are going to enhance how we make this information available to all, every six months—maybe.

But when you go to the detail, to the act and the original tabling speech and the position paper of the Scrutiny of National Schemes of Legislation, what becomes clear, and what we should take into account today, is that parliaments have the constitutional obligation to make laws for peace, order and the good government of the state, not the executive. That is why members of the Labor Party should not vote for this piece of legislation. The fears that were raised in 1996 still exist today. In 1996 Mr Groom said:


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