Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1165 ..
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (4.12): Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that this is an important issue, but I would dispute that this is an appropriate way in which to conduct the debate-that being through a ministerial statement. I note the Chief Minister's passion for this issue and I respect him for that. However, this is not the appropriate way to bring on this debate. The better way would have been for him to move a motion, either as a private member on private members' day or using the device of executive members' business created when we were in government.
I can find nothing in the administrative arrangements which allow the Chief Minister to make a ministerial statement on this issue-simply because he has no ministerial responsibility for this. I sought advice from the clerk. The clerk says, basically, that the constitution of the territory is the Australian Capital Territory (Self Government) Act 1988, an act of the federal parliament.
The act goes on to list the things we can do. We can make laws for peace, order and good governance of the territory. It then lists some things which, under section 23, are specifically excluded from the Assembly's powers. Schedule 4 of the act lists the matters concerning the things for which the executive has the power to govern the territory. Foreign affairs and defence are not included in that list.
Whilst I believe it is appropriate for this place to have debates on issues like this, I do not believe that the device of trying to elevate it, through making a ministerial statement on it, is the appropriate way to do it.
The Chief Minister starts his speech by quoting a large number of people who are against the war. The people he quotes all happen to be members of the Labor Party in the federal parliament. I could quote equally as large a number of people from the Liberal Party, if I wanted to, who would think this is a justified thing.
Let us make the point that war is terrible. War is a terrible thing. No-one willingly goes to war. However, I believe you reach a point in time where it is the lesser of two evils. I will not quote people from my party, I will quote people from the membership of the Canberra community. I quote an article from the Canberra Times of 21 March 2003 entitled "Multicultural leader says war is justified". It says:
The president of the ACT Multicultural Council believes the war against Iraq is justified if it rids the world of Saddam Hussein, an "evil, heartless butcher".
Mohammed Omari has been leading protest marches against the Iraqi president since the 1980s, comparing the dictator's cruelty to Adolf Hitler's and calling for his overthrow.
"I don't know whether Hitler reached this stage,"Mr Amari said.
"Saddam is a butcher with a lot of blood on his hands."
He said Saddam had personally eliminated his brother, his sons-in-law and even his own ministers. "He even oppresses his own people."
It is interesting to go through the Chief Minister's speech, to see that, as some sort of justification for his position, he says things like the following: