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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 4585 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Rights Bill seeks to achieve. Over the coming months, as we continue public debate and discussion around the Human Rights Act, it is important that the people of the ACT at least have an appropriate understanding of what the bill does, what it is intended to do and why it is important.

We need to allay some of the concerns, some of the fear that Mr Stefaniak referred to in his comments that he believes is welling in the breasts of some Canberrans-a fear, of course, that has been planted quite specifically by Mr Stefaniak with his alarmist, outrageous and often erroneous comments and statements around a bill of rights and the impact it will have. Certainly some work needs to be done to repair some of the misinformation that Mr Stefaniak has spread about a bill of rights and what it will mean. I am sure we will go into that in some detail.

One of the most important and fundamental achievements of the Human Rights Act or a bill of rights will be to the extent to which it does introduce into the ACT an enhanced culture around respect for human rights. I would see that as perhaps its greatest benefit and its strongest suit. It will take the ACT one further step down the path of inculcating a culture of respect for human rights within the territory. It is something that we all accept at a certain level. The Human Rights Act takes it to another level. It institutionalises respect for human rights by legislating for human rights. It institutionalises our capacity to achieve that shift or that cultural change and that is why I support it as strongly as I do.

Much of the scaremongering that some, including Mr Stefaniak, and most outrageously Mr Stefaniak, have engaged in-this burst of litigation and arming arch criminals and removing people of their responsibilities to others-is all just bunkum, and time will show it to have been bunkum. The Human Rights Act has been structured in a way to ensure it will avoid all of those things. There will not be a great burst of outrageous litigation. In fact, the bill does not create a new cause of action. So how this amazing burst is to be achieved is beyond me.

I look forward to the debate, Mr Speaker. I welcome the contribution of all members of the Assembly. It is a very important issue, a very important debate, and I look forward to continuing to engage in it. Mr Stefaniak challenged me to have the guts to take this to the people, I remind Mr Stefaniak that the Labor Party campaigned at the last election on support for a bill of rights and we were elected; he wasn't. So the first great referendum on a bill of rights has been held, Mr Stefaniak, and I have no fear about the next great referendum on a bill of rights, which will be held in 10 months time, Mr Stefaniak. I look forward to our next referendum on a bill of rights for the ACT, namely the next ACT election, in 11 months time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 12.31 to 2.30 pm.


MR SPEAKER: I would like to welcome to the gallery students from St Patricks Primary School in Bega. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory.

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