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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2010) . . Page.. 5890 ..


MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Land and Property Services, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (10.03): I am very pleased to participate in this debate around the self-government act, a debate and a motion that are essentially about the democratic rights of the people of the ACT. In the context of this place and our responsibilities, there is no more important responsibility or role that we have and hold than to defend the democratic institutions within the territory and to defend absolutely and unambiguously the democratic rights of the people of the ACT and the rights of the people of the ACT to be accorded the same privileges and democratic rights and freedoms as the rest of Australia. As we are aware, that is not the case.

That is not the case as a result of certain aspects of our constitution—the self-government act—and it is not the case as reflected by steps that are taken and actions that are pursued from time to time by, most particularly, members of the federal parliament that diminish the operation of the self-government act and the democratic rights of the people of the ACT and treat the people of the ACT and this institution, the ACT Legislative Assembly, with a lack of respect and a lack of recognition of our right to be treated equally with all other Australians.

We are all aware of a motion very similar to this one which was passed by the Assembly on 17 June last year and which called for a review of the self-government act. That motion, members would recall, was passed on the 20th anniversary of self-government being gained within the territory. During that particular debate, each of us across the three parties emphasised the maturity of government that has been achieved within the ACT. We emphasised in our contributions to that debate the successes that have been achieved in the territory, and we concluded that a review of the self-government act in the circumstance is about achieving or ensuring the inalienable democratic rights of all Australians, most particularly those within the territory.

As I said before—I believe this in a heartfelt way—there is nothing more fundamental to a parliament than its ability to reflect the needs and values of its constituents. Indeed, that is democracy. It has to be said that ours is a progressive electorate in the territory. We know that, and we are an open community, a community that aspires to be free of discrimination and prejudice, a community that has been prepared to face up to some of the issues that confront us in our capacity to ensure that we are an open and progressive, supporting community that will not tolerate discrimination. The legislative history of this place reflects that view of this community and of this legislature. We have, over our time, shown the extent to which we want to be an inclusive, fair and open society and community.

It is in the context of that, if one were to restrict oneself just to those issues around fairness, equity and equality, that we can see what a proud record the ACT Legislative Assembly has. It is a matter of note that the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1997 recognised the injustices done to Indigenous Australians through an apology in this place, an apology to the Stolen Generation, 10 long years before a national apology was delivered.


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