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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2010) . . Page.. 5891 ..


More recently, I and the ACT government have been pursuing in correspondence with our federal colleagues our desire for the recognition of Indigenous Australians to be incorporated in a preamble to the self-government act in the way that other parliaments around Australia are now recognising Indigenous people and in the way that the Prime Minister of Australia has recently indicated she wishes them to be reflected in the preamble to our national constitution. It is ironic to reflect that the New South Wales parliament has recognised in its preamble to its constitution the traditional owners of the lands of New South Wales, that the Prime Minister of Australia wishes to do the same, but we in the ACT do not have that capacity.

It is a fact, and the progressive record of achievement of this place reveals it, that in 2002 this Assembly led the nation in the decriminalisation of abortion. The ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass a charter of human rights, a bill of rights. In 2006 we conferred equal rights under the law to gay and lesbian citizens of the ACT. These are just some of the many successes that have been achieved here within the territory.

But while acknowledging these successes, we also have to acknowledge that there are very significant constraints on this place to the detriment of our democratic structures and the democratic rights of the people of the ACT. The legislation which Senator Bob Brown has introduced goes very much to those. This is a very important issue. Senator Bob Brown seeks to remove what I believe to be a completely unacceptable inhibition on the rights of the people of the ACT, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island in the ban on any debate in any of our legislatures on the issue of euthanasia.

The debate that should be occurring in the federal parliament now on that bill is not and should not be a debate about euthanasia; it should only be a debate about the democratic rights of the people of the ACT and the other territories. But it is not, and I think it is a matter of regret that politicians from around Australia continue to believe that it is reasonable or appropriate for them to determine on behalf of the people of the ACT, people whom they do not represent, what the law on that particular issue should be in the Australian Capital Territory.

Senator Brown has a twin piece of legislation in relation to section 35 of the self-government act, the provision which was utilised most recently by the Howard government to defeat a piece of legislation in the ACT designed to remove discrimination against gay and lesbian Canberrans. That is yet to be debated to the extent that the Brown bill on euthanasia is being debated, but at its heart is the same issue.

The motion that Ms Porter has moved, of course, goes to and responds to some of those actions that are occurring federally which draw attention. I support Senator Brown in this, because they draw attention to the disabilities suffered by the legislatures within the territories as a result of attitudes that are held and acted on by some of our federal parliamentary colleagues.

In the short time available to me, I should acknowledge Mrs Dunne’s amendment. I have an amendment to Mrs Dunne’s amendment. To the extent that Mrs Dunne is


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