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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 3 June 2021) . . Page.. 1726 ..

The way the media refer to and portray Canberra is an issue that the Labor-Greens government might like to take up with those media organisations. To suggest that Canberra needs to divorce from Parliament House is concerning and shows a complete lack of respect for the system of parliamentary democracy that we cherish, the system that has seen Labor and Greens MLAs—in fact, all of us—elected to this place. I am unsure what the government is advocating as to where the federal parliament should go, along with its politicians, but the government’s desire to revisit how our national capital is portrayed is disappointing.

The Labor-Greens statement about divorcing Parliament House appears as a slur on the tens of thousands of hardworking federal public servants who toil to implement programs across the nation to improve our communities and the standard of living for all Australians. How do such government remarks align with the fact that, day after day in this place, the Labor-Greens MLAs bellow for action from the federal government in all manner of ways. Just yesterday, we had Greens MLA Ms Clay saying that the Australian government should endorse a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Her Greens colleague Mr Braddock called on the Australian government to move more federal public service agencies to Gungahlin. Isn’t this the same federal parliament that the government seeks to divorce in its quest to boost Canberra’s image, brand and identity?

In 2019 more than 114,000 Australians from 2,000 schools across our country landed in Canberra to fill their hungry little minds with knowledge about our democracy and the country that they are lucky enough to call home. The federal government provides a rebate for these students to travel to Canberra as part of their civics and citizenship education. Earlier this year it increased the rebate by 50 per cent. This means that more students will have the chance to visit our nation’s capital and learn about our history and democracy.

Mr Assistant Speaker, 2,000 schools across our nation cannot be wrong. The teachers and principals at those 2,000 schools cannot be wrong. They know how important it is that our children learn about our parliamentary system of government, our electoral processes and our democratic history, and that they experience it firsthand in Canberra, the seat of our national institutions. It is worth noting that these school excursions are worth about $150 million to the ACT, so they make a strong contribution to our local economy. The Canberran Liberals welcome this flood of young scholars, particularly from regional and rural areas, flocking to our nation’s capital. They do not seem to fit the Labor-Greens government vision for Canberra’s brand, image and identity.

In closing, I draw the attention of the Assembly to the “Chifley experience”, an opportunity offered at the Hotel Kurrajong where guests can live like Chifley by staying in the room he resided in during his parliamentary career. There is no end to the experiences offered in our nation’s capital that provide visitors and residents with wonderful opportunities to learn about our rich political and democratic heritage and freedoms. Canberrans young and old know that we live in the nation’s capital and are proud to share that with tourists who often believe that the capital must be Sydney or Melbourne. That invites locals to spruik Canberra to explain how we became the nation’s capital, what that means and how important it is to us.

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