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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1842..

MR BARR (continuing):

The easy option is to do nothing. It is to sit back and just watch it happen. I am not prepared to do that. I am prepared to take what is a big step forward, a brave step, and seek to engage in some reform. I think the public education system needs it. I do not shy away from that at all. I intend to engage in that reform in a constructive manner, and I welcome all those who will seek to contribute.

MR SESELJA: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, will the destabilising of public education and the inevitable curtailment of teacher numbers drive more teachers into the non-government sector?

MR BARR: No, Mr Speaker.

Civil unions legislation

MS PORTER: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Attorney-General. Can the Attorney-General advise the Assembly of the latest situation with regard to the commonwealth proposal to override the Civil Unions Act 2006?

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms Porter for the question. As members would be aware, the commonwealth government and the commonwealth Attorney-General indicated late yesterday their intention to advise the Governor-General to disallow the Civil Unions Act 2006.

This is a move which is of enormous concern to the government and should be of enormous concern to all members in this place because what is at stake is not just the issue of whether or not that piece of legislation is a worthy piece of legislation-we on this side, and I know Dr Foskey, believe that it is-but also at stake is the issue of whether or not this parliament, this Assembly, is entitled to make laws for the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

For that reason I have already communicated to the commonwealth Attorney-General, in a discussion I had with him last night, my very serious concern and anger on behalf of the government-and, I believe, of most members here-at the decision to override that legislation through the provisions of the self-government act.

Following that discussion, I have sought further advice from my department as to the options open to the Assembly and the government to address this unprecedented, heavy-handed and draconian move by the commonwealth government. As members would be aware, the options are limited. The powers of the self-government act make it clear that the commonwealth has this power.

In doing this, the first thing we need to hear from the commonwealth government is which provisions of the Civil Unions Act do they disagree with. I asked this question of the commonwealth attorney last night. He was unable to give me any clear advice as to which provisions of the Civil Unions Act should be amended to make it acceptable to the commonwealth. I believe it is incumbent on the commonwealth to advise this Assembly which provisions of the legislation are unacceptable, so that this Assembly can consider whether or not it is reasonable to amend the legislation.

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