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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 3256 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

And he has separated himself from government. Only last week, he stood with the Opposition and the crossbenchers, or some of them, and voted against the Government on the question of the Federal Golf Club redevelopment.

Life goes on. We are sitting back today. We are working on issues together. We went through Cabinet yesterday and we are achieving things. Mr Stanhope, who obviously cannot stand the heat of this argument, has rushed out of the chamber; he simply cannot understand how a different approach can be taken on such matters. But, of course, they can. I remind Mr Stanhope that the Labor Party in South Australia also exercises conscience votes on matters relating to drugs, I understand. Now, why is it that it is all right for the Labor Party in South Australia, but not the Liberal Party in the ACT? It is very hard to understand.

Mr Speaker, let me put the position perfectly clear on the table. The policy which has been tabled in the Assembly is a government policy. Members of the Liberal Party have the right to exercise a conscience vote. The policy, however, which has been tabled today, represents a substantial agreement between members of the Government on those issues. Specific issues not subject to agreement are those which members may depart from at future debates. So two issues, such as heroin trials and safe injecting places, are matters where certain members of the Liberal Party may exercise a different view to other members of the Liberal Party.

The world does not end. Parliamentary democracy does not collapse because that occurs. When votes come about on those issues, we will vote on the floor of the Assembly according to our consciences. When that is over we will go back to our party room and our Cabinet and continue with the process of delivering good government in the ACT. I think members opposite should not be afraid of that process. They should look to it as the way of the future. The idea of autocratic government exercising complete control over its members, not allowing them to exercise the dictates of their conscience - frankly, the days of that system are numbered.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (12.20), in reply: In closing the debate, I thank members for their comments in this cognate debate. Nobody doubts that the drug issues, both legal and illegal, have health, economic, social, personal issues surrounding them. They are not just about health; they are not just about the law; they are not just about education; they are about all of those things. They are about who we are as a society. Mr Stanhope's comments reinforced to me why I am a Liberal. Many people have asked me that over the years. The reason is that we value and respect individual thought and belief.

Mr Speaker, you and I agree on probably 90 per cent of things and disagree on 10 per cent. I would suggest that is probably the case right across the party. Mature politics and good leadership are about allowing you, or me, or Mr Moore, to vote within our belief structures wherever possible. I cannot think of a reason why that would not be possible all of the time. There may be an occasional situation. But giving everybody an opportunity to express views on important things they believe are morally right or morally wrong is what good leadership is about, not bad leadership, as Mr Stanhope has said. It is certainly something that this party will continue to do; certainly as long as I am in this job. I think other members would agree with me totally.

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