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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 838 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The notion of civil, social and political rights raises concerns from the Liberal Party's perspective. The rights concept of social services-the right to housing, education and health, et cetera-even though internationally accepted and agreed, does not fit the Liberal Party's approach to providing for the less fortunate people in our society. The rights approach is obviously threatening to their agenda, which is based more on a charity and welfare model and is loaded with all sorts of values that we need to have the opportunity to talk about. And Mr Pratt said he would like to quietly stifle this debate.

Well, thank God we have a right not to have things quietly stifled and the right to have this discussion as a community. I wholeheartedly support it and believe that many people in the ACT community will welcome it as an opportunity to have a look at the fundamental position of people who argue against such a bill of rights. I think it is a very healthy discussion, not only for the ACT but for Australia generally.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.06), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to the debate. It is interesting that an inquiry into a bill of rights has generated even the comment that it has today, and I welcome it. In the context of the point that Ms Tucker just made, one of the things communities do not talk about enough is rights.

From time to time in this place I hear concerns laboured about the lack of understanding in the community about the Constitution, civics, human rights and the balancing of rights. So a discussion about rights is to be welcomed in itself. As Ms Tucker said, an understanding of what our fundamental rights are as individuals and as human beings is a welcome debate. The inquiry process will serve a very useful purpose.

I am glad Mr Stefaniak acknowledged that the first task of the committee is to consult with the community about their views on the appropriateness and desirability of enacting the legislation to establish a bill of rights in the ACT. That, of course, was done quite deliberately. I have a very strong view that it behoves governments to engage their communities in issues such as this. These issues cannot be rammed down the throats of a community. Each of the members has acknowledged that this is a significant debate, and these are significant issues. But they are also fundamental issues, and it is appropriate that the community be fully engaged in them. The community will be asked to engage in the debate in as complete a way as possible.

I did not anticipate a debate on the bill of rights today; I have no doubt that over the rest of this year there will be plenty of opportunity to talk about these issues. I look forward with some eagerness to broad discussion and wide-ranging debates on a bill of rights and the recognition of rights in this community.

For the sake of the discussion that we have had and to put some perspective on some of the comments that have been made, it is relevant that we look at the terms of reference-not only the opening requirement of the committee that it engage the community in a discussion of whether a bill of rights is appropriate or desirable but also the other aspects of the terms of reference.

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