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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 November 2010) . . Page.. 5623 ..


We are not an immature legislature that needs the supervision or oversight of the commonwealth executive. On the contrary, we can proudly say that we are a modern and representative democracy. Former Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Anthony Mason once said that modern democracy extends beyond simple majoritarianism to the protection of fundamental rights and the respect for the dignity of the individual. As the first jurisdiction to formally recognise human rights and establish a statutory mechanism for ensuring our human rights are protected, I think we can confidently say that we meet that additional requirement of a modern democracy. We have robust accountability mechanisms and a modern administrative system with accountability mechanisms that would overall be equal to any other state parliament.

I think in this evening’s debate it is appropriate to consider the most recent example of the abuse of power given to the executive by section 35 of the self-government act, and I am of course talking about civil unions and the appalling disrespect shown by the commonwealth government not only to every gay, lesbian or transgender Australian but to every resident of the ACT and every member of this place.

The second reading speech on the self-government bill made by the Minister for Territories underscored in plain language the intention of the bill:

It will allow 270,000 people the same democratic rights and social responsibility as their fellow Australians … In proposing self-government for the Territory, the Government has once again demonstrated its commitment to democracy for all.

Unfortunately we know now that that was not true, that in fact there is only democracy for some.

I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of the Greens to formally thank the Chief Minister for being so proactive on the issue, for writing to all members and senators of the commonwealth parliament, urging them to address the real issue at hand and to recognise the rights of the people of the ACT to conduct their own affairs. I would echo that call and ask both members and senators of the commonwealth parliament to reflect on whether or not they think it would be acceptable for the elected representatives of the ACT to be able to invalidate a law of their state parliaments, irrespective of the level of community support for that law. I suspect none would think that that was acceptable.

So once again I thank Ms Porter for bringing on this motion tonight, and the Greens fully support this motion.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (8.46): I move:

Omit all words after “That this Assembly”, substitute:

“(1) supports the rights of people of the ACT to legislate on their own behalf upon matters within their legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution of Australia;


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