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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2010) . . Page.. 5893 ..


Party why all of their colleagues in the states are better than them and why it is that they do not want to represent Canberrans on the same range of issues that members of state parliaments represent their constituents on.

The amendment shows significant ignorance of the source of our authority to make laws and significant ignorance of our constitution, the federal system and the way the constitution distributes power within our federal system. Unlike the states, where their constitutions and powers enjoy the protection of the constitution under sections 106 and 107 and whose legislative jurisdictions are necessarily protected by a scope of matters assigned to the commonwealth parliament, the territories enjoy no equivalent status or rights. The constitution in section 122 gives a plenary power to create a government for the territories. Rather than any positive legislative jurisdiction, the commonwealth constitution only gives us a range of protections and limitations on the legislative power that can be exercised by the commonwealth and the ACT government.

The only source of our legislative authority is the ACT self-government act. The powers and structure of that act are at the discretion of the commonwealth parliament. The only limitations on the commonwealth power are limitations that would otherwise apply to any exercise of legislative power by the commonwealth parliament. As I said in my previous speech on this motion, it is only recently that this has been confirmed by the High Court and the rights of territorians are equally protected and confirmed as being the same as those in other states. Otherwise, there is no inherent limitation on the jurisdiction that can be given to the territory parliament beyond what otherwise applies to the commonwealth parliament, and to attempt to create one, as this amendment does, is simply wrong.

We are subject to the whim of the commonwealth parliament and the commonwealth executive. The fact that the Canberra Liberals see no problem with this and are quite happy to be run roughshod over beggars belief.

I will respond to a couple of points Mrs Dunne made in her speech. She said:

… before we commit to the momentous changes in our system of governance.

This, I put to you, is not a momentous change. What we are saying is we want the same capacity as state parliaments and that we should review the self-government act. What is momentous about that?

Mrs Dunne also made the point about getting the checks and balances right. We all agree that we need checks and balances. Our government is built on the notion that power needs to be dispersed and subject to oversight to guard against its misuse. To say that the commonwealth parliament offers us an effective check and balance is nonsense. Real checks and balances operate every day to protect us on every issue. They are integrity agencies, the distribution of functions between the arms of government, the availability of judicial review and the effective rule of law. They are also mechanisms like the Human Rights Acts that actually protect the rights of Canberrans every day. They are not the political whim of the commonwealth government.


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