Page 874 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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MR SPEAKER: It was about the powers of the commonwealth. The minister responsible for intergovernmental relations is responding to the question. The questioner is entitled to hear the answer.

MR STANHOPE: As I said, there are other instances. I was referring most specifically to euthanasia, where the commonwealth has, through the same minister, Kevin Andrews, actually exercised that power.

There have been other instances where the threat, the language, has been pursued. We saw it in relation to the commonwealth’s dogged determination to ensure that neither the ACT nor, indeed, other places around Australia could pursue a heroin trial.

We saw the subliminal threat in relation to the gay and lesbian law reform exercise that the ACT has pursued over the past two years, most particularly in relation to amendments which the ACT has made to the right of—

MR SPEAKER: The minister’s time has expired. Do you have a supplementary question, Ms MacDonald?

MS MacDONALD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Are there explanations you can provide, minister, of the right of the commonwealth to intervene in the democratic process of the ACT?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms MacDonald. Yes, there are. I was referring most specifically to the threat levelled by the Prime Minister in correspondence to me in relation to progressive law reform designed to remove discrimination against Canberra residents in relation to the right, most specifically, of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. We saw a quite direct threat by the Prime Minister to intervene in the ACT to overrule the nation’s first bill of rights.

We have seen now, most directly and not through a threat or subliminal suggestion, undertone or undercurrent—in the introduction of this law by Minister Andrews to overturn protections afforded by the law of the ACT to residents of the ACT to actually remove a vital, valid and strong protection designed to ensure workplace safety—that the commonwealth is prepared to remove a right asserted last year, designed simply to make workplaces safer. It is a right, a law, a piece of significant law reform, nation-leading law reform, cutting-edge reform, designed to ensure the safety of workers within the ACT.

When we go to the fundamental issue—and it is the issue today—each of us might have views on any of those examples that I have used today. It may be that there are issues in relation to which the commonwealth might intervene with which I might have some sympathy with their philosophical position or their point of view, but that is not the point. The point is about the right of the people of the ACT to determine, through their elected representatives, through their parliament, what the domestic law of the ACT will be.

One might ask—and it is interesting, listening to the interjections of the opposition today—whether or not this is some strange, new heresy that I am suggesting: that we, as a parliament, should unite to oppose the intervention in our affairs by the national

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