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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 837 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

Why did all these attempts at the federal and local levels fail? Why does the New South Wales Premier reject the notion of a bill of rights? It is simply because the majority of Australians know that a bill of rights is unnecessary for their lives and wellbeing. Many Australians believe we are strangling in red tape.

At both federal and state/territory levels a plethora of legislation has been created, by successive governments over many decades, governing how we conduct our business and our lives. Much of this legislation was necessary to streamline procedures and, yes, to enhance and protect rights and entitlements. But so much of that has been an unnecessary impost on society, introduced simply to satisfy the politically correct or provide financial gain to some at the expense of their fellow citizens.

Now the Labor government in the ACT seeks yet again to introduce a bill of rights, which it is patently clear ACT residents do not want. It is a stark example of intrusive social engineering. We have a wonderful system, developed over centuries of democratic freedom, that enshrines our rights and freedoms under the Westminster system. We all recognise the strength and justice of our Westminster democratic system, enshrining as it does our individual rights and the collective rights of our nation. The Westminster system has stood the test of time. Importantly, for over a century we have exported our democratic system to emerging nations and sown the seeds of civil society, as represented by the framework of our successful democratic and legal system, in many states that are in disarray.

This is another clear illustration of the strength of our system. Why, then, do we need a bill of rights-yet another layer of legislation and bureaucracy? The proposed Stanhope bill of rights would open the floodgates to expensive and unnecessary litigation brought by dishonest individuals or groups and opportunistic legal entities. The timing of this proposal is staggering. It coincides with community outrage at an increasingly litigious society. Business is being choked by unnecessary red tape and excessive legislation, endangering employment and growth.

In the ACT we are struggling to bring back sanity to an environment where the blame game is becoming big business driven by legal practitioners under the no-win, no-fee slogan. Our society is already bogged down by unnecessary, politically driven legal appeals on a whole range of issues-issues both divisive and wasteful. In the interest of good governance, of equity and of ordinary Australians, let us quietly stifle this new proposal for a bill of rights before it becomes the monster I fear it will grow into.

MS TUCKER (4.04): I will speak briefly to this, mainly to express concern at the response from the Liberal Party to the concept of a bill of rights and to put on the record what we think about the idea-as we all seem to need to. The Greens are very supportive of it, and I find the strong reaction from the Liberal Party very disturbing. I am surprised they do not think we should abolish the Human Rights Office or have motions about how dangerous it is to have discussion about rights in the community. You could also expect from them that they put up motions of extreme concern about various United Nations rights conventions.

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