Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3271 ..
Now, it feels a bit strange to have to break this information down into its component atoms, but it seems very clear to me what that statement means. Here is what happened, as I understand it from the information. Senator McMahon originally wanted to include the ACT in her bill, but she had a conversation with Senator Seselja and he did not support that. Senator McMahon therefore did not include the ACT in the bill. That seems very obvious from the information that Senator McMahon provided to the Sydney Morning Herald. It feels as if I am describing the wings, beak, and quack of what is very obviously a duck.
Senator Seselja discussed with Senator McMahon that he did not support the ACT being in the bill. That is what Senator McMahon describes in her quotes. That is what we tried, through the wording of the motion, to capture. I believe it is accurate. That is the key point in this debate. I note that, over the period following these quotes, Senator Seselja did not take any of the many opportunities offered to him to deny the published narrative. A Canberra Times article on 6 July, for example, was entitled “Elizabeth Lee to urge Zed Seselja for territory rights to be restored”. This article again talked about the scenario I have already described, saying:
… the bill would only include the Northern Territory, after Senator McMahon said Senator Seselja would not support it.
It goes on to describe how Ms Lee is lobbying Mr Seselja to support territory rights. It also quotes a spokeswoman for Senator Seselja saying, “The senator’s views on euthanasia are well known and have not changed.” There was no denial of Senator McMahon’s quote.
Again, this reality seems very clear. Senator Seselja has been explicit about his opposition to the restoration of territory rights. Even his local Liberal members are lobbying him to change his mind. I thank them for that, because, as I have described, he is a significant barrier to this reform. But that is the situation. There then ensued a variety of reporting, including quotes from Mr Seselja, and an op ed from the senator repeating his position and certainly not refuting the position explained by Senator McMahon. This all took place within weeks of the original story. With all of those opportunities, not once did Senator Seselja take the opportunity to refute the original quote of Senator McMahon, which had been widely reported.
There is a later letter from Senator McMahon to Senator Gallagher, undated but reported on 24 July, which says, “At no stage in my conversations with Senator Seselja did he instruct me on how I should draft my legislation.” There is a very careful choice of words here. He may not have instructed her on how to draft her legislation, but, as we know from Senator McMahon’s own widely reported quote, he evidently made it clear that if she included the ACT he would not support the bill. Now we are definitely talking how many angels are dancing on the head of that pin. So my view is that, in the motion that Minister Cheyne and I sponsored, we did not make a false and misleading assertion.
There is clearly a political dispute here, and different people use different words to describe the same situation. The English language is flexible like that. But the central