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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4244 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

When I first saw this issue raised by Professor McMillan, I thought, "I suppose you could have on the panel somebody who is vigorously opposed to a bill of rights."But what would happen if such a person was asked, "Do you think we should have a right to freedom of speech in a bill of rights?"The person would probably reply, "Well let me say I'm totally opposed to a bill of rights so I wouldn't have freedom of speech in a bill of rights because I think they're a bloody stupid idea."

So you can ask the other question: why would you ask somebody who is totally opposed to a bill of rights what rights it should include? Why would you force such a person to engage in a discussion about what rights should be protected in a bill of rights? That is the basic rationale, as I understand it, and it seems quite reasonable and logical to me.

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, why did you appoint a panel to determine community opinion on a bill of rights consisting entirely of supporters of the concept, and do you understand the growing community scepticism about the process, given the flawed consultation process that has been followed to date?

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I have to say I do not believe there is growing community concern or scepticism about the process and I do not believe the process was flawed. Mrs Dunne is trying to debate the question.

I have been asked before in this place about the make-up and nature of the consultative panel. The consultative panel is comprised of Professor Hilary Charlesworth as chair. Professor Hilary Charlesworth is the head of the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University. I believe that Professor Hilary Charlesworth is regarded by her peers as the outstanding, the pre-eminent, rights lawyer in Australia and perhaps one of the most outstanding rights lawyers in the world. Professor Hilary Charlesworth's reputation is simply beyond question.

Mrs Dunne: No-one is questioning it.

MR STANHOPE: No, but her integrity has been questioned. You are not questioning her standing: you are questioning her integrity. Her integrity is beyond question; it is unimpeachable.

Mr Corbell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: the opposition are continually interjecting on the Chief Minister. He is trying, quite legitimately, to answer the question and they should allow him to answer the question.

MR SPEAKER: That is a clear point. Mrs Dunne, you asked a supplementary question. All you can do is wait for the Chief Minister to answer it. Interjections don't help.

Mrs Dunne: In that case, Mr Speaker, I will take a point of order. Mr Stanhope implied that I questioned the integrity of Professor Charlesworth. I have never done that.

MR SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Resume your seat.

Mrs Dunne: Mr Stanhope should withdraw the assertion.

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