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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3914 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I think you are aware of the strong stand which I and this government took in relation to the Falun Gong, under significant pressure from our federal colleagues. It was only through the assertion by the federal Liberal Party of a right under some alleged international obligation that action was taken in relation to that protest. The attitude of this government at that time was that whilst ever people demonstrate, congregate or protest within the law their right to do so will be respected and supported. The ACT police were inclined to take a very different attitude to the Falun Gong demonstrations than their Federal Police colleagues and the federal government did.

It is a significant issue from time to time in our policing arrangements that the ACT police do adopt an attitude to certain issues that perhaps flies in the face of what the federal government would like of them. An example of that over and above the Falun Gong example is the Aboriginal tent embassy. I know the attitude of the ACT police was very much that that was not a matter requiring police involvement. The ACT police were hesitant about becoming involved in what they saw as a legitimate protest action. The attitude of the ACT police to both the Falun Gong demonstration and issues at the tent embassy indicate the attitude of our police force to the democratic and lawful rights of citizens.

That said, one cannot underestimate or be complacent about the terrorist threats that each of us face and potentially confront us here in Canberra, the national capital. Our being the national capital is both a benefit and a curse to us in relation to the terrorist threats we face. It is a benefit to the extent that I believe, with the presence here of the Australian Federal Police, a highly skilled and expertly trained police force, we are blessed in the knowledge that we have available to us as a community a police force of the highest order, with the highest levels of training and, I believe, the highest levels of integrity. But we are perhaps damned to the extent that we are the national capital. There is a thought abroad that as a result of that we may well be more prone, subject or attractive to a terrorist or the terrorist mind-if one could get into the terrorist mind-than perhaps some other communities. I do not wish to be alarmist about that. We should not be unnecessarily alarmed or alarmist about it, but it is a fact of our residence here in the national capital. In those circumstances, we and the people of Canberra expect extra vigilance by police forces in respect of activities that may be a threat to life and property.

I believe there needs to be some acceptance of the extreme circumstance we face. I am not one who would ever willingly abandon a civil liberty or a civil right, but we do need to be mature and pragmatic in our responses to some of the issues we face.

MS TUCKER: I ask a supplementary question. My question was directed at civil liberties and how you will ensure that those liberties are not impinged upon. I hear your answer, but I am still interested to know whether you would look at the Community Law Reform Committee's report on peaceful assemblies and on street offences, which contains some useful suggestions on protecting these rights in our laws.


: Yes, I am happy to look at those things, Ms Tucker. I think it is fair for me to say that this government will not go rampaging into civil liberties or the rights of citizens, but we will be responsible and we will be measured in our response to the extreme circumstances which we as a community and a nation face in relation to terrorism. This is not a government that is going to go trampling over civil liberties and basic rights. There is always a balance. There is a balance in everything. We will ensure

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