Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4579 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
The general attitude of society ensures that people's rights are properly looked after. That is something we have had in Australia and in the ACT for many years indeed. The system is not perfect. It can be improved and we regularly try to improve it through legislation and deal with issues when they come up. That is far better than going down this path which I think is going to have a very, very adverse effect on people's real rights in the Australian Capital Territory. It is a sad day that the Labor Party is pushing this hobbyhorse, something that its colleagues in New South Wales and Queensland aren't remotely interested in doing. Again I simply call on the Chief Minister to have the guts, put it to a referendum if he feels it is so important and let the people of the ACT decide on an issue that is going to have such significant ramifications,.
MS DUNDAS (12.02): I start by congratulating the government on pursuing this initiative to ensure that the laws of the ACT specifically protect human rights in the territory. The Democrats have long championed the cause of human rights both in Australia and internationally and this process has been a significant step towards the recognition that governments at all levels have a duty to recognise and protect the basic universal rights of all human beings to which their laws apply. Contrary to Mr Stefaniak, I believe that public consultation was extensive. Comprehensive and complete public consultation is crucial to informing and debating important issues in this city. We can have a look at the deliberative poll and the consultation process that happened there.
Mr Stefaniak makes great reference to the public meetings that were specifically held by the Bill of Rights Consultative Committee but I draw his attention to page 125 of the report which lists other consultations that took place when the Bill of Rights Consultative Committee went out and talked to different groups including Rotary clubs, University of the Third Age, the Right Reverend George Browning, the Italian Australian Club, the Corrections Coalition, ACT Golden Key Society as well as the ACT ALP Legal and Administrative Committee and the ACT Democrats. I note that the Canberra Liberals did not ask to be part of this consultation process one on one with the inquiry. Whilst other members of this Assembly put in submissions to the Bill of Rights Consultative Committee, I couldn't find Mr Stefaniak's name on that list. So his concerns about the consultation process need to be taken with a grain of salt.
There were many opportunities for people to be included in the process and many did take up that offer from the consultative committee. It is a bit unfair for Mr Stefaniak to be criticising the consultative committee. However, I do think that young people need to be included in public consultation. Human rights will affect them throughout their lives. I note that whilst the Ministerial Youth Council was asked to be consulted on this it was disappointing to see young people not being included in the deliberative poll because they are not currently on the electoral roll. That process needs to be fixed up.
Another thing I liked about the report of the consultative committee was that it did address the terms of reference. It looked at all the questions that were raised about whether it is appropriate and desirable to enact legislation establishing a bill of rights in the ACT. That was the committee's main question. It comprehensively answered it through this report and raised a lot of very important issues as it looked at whether or not it is appropriate and, if it is appropriate and desirable, what form the legislation should take. When talking about human rights, it is important to look at the rights and responsibilities chapter from page 105 onward. The report starts by asking the questions: