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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4574 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

the six evening town meetings held last year. I went to four of them. Tuggeranong was an absolute doozey. I think I was the fourth member of the public to turn up. Chris Uhlmann from the ABC turned up and there were only four members of the public, and I was included in that number.

The meetings got better. There was one at Gungahlin, one at Phillip, one at Belconnen, one at Griffith and one at Acton. One actually had 40 people, that was at the university, and the others were in the range of probably 15 or 16-a total of 120 people. Last year I went to a community meeting concerned about Gungahlin Drive at the Aranda Primary School and it was absolutely packed. The hall was packed-something like about 400 or 500 people were there.

I don't think a bill of rights is a terribly crucial issue burning on the brains of Canberra citizens, despite what the Chief Minister might say. It is an important issue to some members, probably in the left wing of the Labor Party. Certainly a lot of academics like the idea of it, but for Mr and Mrs Isabella Plains or a Mr and Mrs Spence, they really couldn't care less about it and for very, very good reason. It is for very, very good reason that Australia has not gone down that path.

The consultative committee was an interesting exercise. In any disparaging comments I make in relation to bills of rights I certainly don't intend to make any derisory comments about the people involved in the panel. I got on very well with them. They were all very, very keen to have a bill of rights, and it is probably better to ensure that you have got people with varying views on a consultative committee instead of people with a like mind. That is something that should not be done again on a consultative committee. But I found them very pleasant people to deal with, albeit we did not agree on this particular matter.

When the report was brought down, there were a number of problems with it. Firstly, I was pleased to see that they didn't exactly go down the path of an entrenched bill of rights. There are good reasons for that. The basic reason is that you couldn't do it anyway in the Assembly because the Liberal Party is not going to vote for it. We are more than 33.3 per cent of the Assembly, so we can't have an entrenched bill of rights in our current laws. It would be very, very disastrous, too, for a number of reasons.

It was pointed out, even to this committee, that if we had entrenched our constitution back in 1901, the white Australia policy would be entrenched in there, and I don't think terribly many members in this place would like to see that happen. An entrenched bill of rights has all the problems one sees with the American constitution and some of the very strange rulings the courts have to make in relation to a bill of rights that was entrenched over 200 years ago-things like the right to bear arms, the right of free speech, which has allowed child pornography in some states, and sensible laws having to be redone because they are inconsistent with that bill of rights. So at least we can be thankful for small mercies that it wasn't recommended, but it wouldn't have worked anyway.

I am concerned about the rationale behind some of the recommendations of the committee. When the report came out, a couple of things jumped out at me. The committee spoke to the ACT Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee about human rights in relation to Aboriginal people and others. One thing concerned me, and it was a quote on page 19, which said:

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