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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 835 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

system of government or perfect society-a far better system of government and a far better society than virtually anyone else in the world. And in Canberra we are blessed with living in probably the best city in Australia.

Even in our small territory we have a series of traditions going back to when it was started that are based on Australian, and before that British, parliamentary democracy. We have acts of parliament here. We regularly enact legislation to upgrade people's rights. Rights are a changing thing. One of the great problems in enshrining legislation is that it is constantly changing. We do not do it perfectly-there probably is no perfect way-but we do it pretty well.

We live in one of the freer cities in the world, and I really fear that any attempt to significantly tamper with those freedoms, even very well-meaning attempts such as this, can cause more problems than it can solve. It is a hackneyed old cliché, but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I fear that that may well apply should we ultimately go down the path of a bill of rights. I conclude by saying that I am at least pleased to see the Attorney indicate that there is a first step for people to comment on whether they want one or not.

MRS DUNNE (3.54): Mr Speaker, the bill of rights has long been championed by the ALP, except for the notable exception of the New South Wales Premier, and traditionally opposed by coalition parties. Constitutional committees met six times between 1973 and 1985 over a constitutional bill of rights, and they were consistently split over the issue. This would indicate that there is no demonstrable need for a bill of rights in the ACT or in the Commonwealth.

Unlike my colleague, I am perturbed by the tone of the Attorney's statement. It seems to me a gloss-over that the committee is making an initial determination as to the desirability of a bill of rights. We know very well that this Attorney is committed to a constitutional bill of rights, and we can expect to see, some time during this Assembly, legislation to enhance one.

No case has been made that a bill of rights will enhance the rights of people. If we eventually get a bill of rights in the ACT, we can of course take comfort that no ACT citizen will be held in servitude or slavery. Now, a burning issue for the front bar of the Dickson tradesmen's club is whether we ought to be held in servitude or slavery.

Mr Smyth: In certain parts of Fyshwick.

MRS DUNNE: In certain parts of Fyshwick. It is worth stating for the record that the bill of rights is a major document. Its purpose is to exhort people throughout the world to observe the basic principles of human rights. I would contend that those principles have been developed largely by our system of government, the rule of law and the free and democratic institutions which we have enjoyed in this country, which we inherited from the United Kingdom.

Like Bob Carr, I object to a bill of rights which transfers policy from the legislature to the judiciary. This is idealistic thinking at its utopian outer limits, and it smacks of social engineering. A bill of rights does not protect rights, nor can courts alone adequately protect them. I agree with Bob Carr when he says the protection of rights lies in the good sense, tolerance and fairness of the community. You cannot legislate for this.

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