Page 3727 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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Mr Pratt: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, those are the issues that are at stake. Mr Stanhope was under no obligation to the commonwealth in terms of confidentiality. It was not a confidential document. It was not a document provided on the basis, “Do not discuss it with your parliament, do not discuss it with your community, do not even discuss it with your cabinet.” That was not the basis on which this negotiation was entered into.

Mr Stanhope went to COAG and made very clear the territory’s position. When that draft legislation was received it was not consistent with what was being agreed upon at COAG and it was reasonable, entirely reasonable, that he seek the advice of people outside the government before deciding whether the territory should enter into the agreement that had been made in principle at COAG. There was nothing inconsistent in what Mr Stanhope did compared to what he did at COAG. It was entirely consistent.

I think that it is worth reflecting on some of the comments that have been made in the press in the last little while, which really highlight why it is important that these matters are put into the public arena. On Sunday, Michelle Grattan wrote in the Age:

It’s easy for sceptics to argue that opponents of the anti-terrorism laws are exaggerating their potential misuse and downplaying all the judicial safeguards. This overlooks history and human nature. This Government’s treatment of asylum seekers, and its patent disregard for the rights of David Hicks and Habib, do not encourage giving it the benefit of the doubt. There’s not much reason to think Labor would be better. If the laws are there, the probability is they’ll eventually be used to the hilt.

Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that these laws represent a fundamental shift in civil liberties in our community. They represent a fundamental undermining of important principles around the rights of an individual in a democratic society, basic rights such as habeas corpus and the ability to go about your business and express a point of view without fear of retribution from the government. These issues are at stake.

To suggest that it is wrong to encourage and foster public debate on these issues is, I think, flawed. It is a position that reeks of simply being led by the nose by those in the federal parliament and it is not a position that I think this government, or this community, should accept. We should argue fully and forthrightly why this legislation deserves public debate, public exposure, and public engagement. Only in that way will our rights be protected, only in that way will we strike the appropriate balance between protecting our community and protecting individuals’ civil liberties. That can be done. That is what the Chief Minister is trying to do. He should be commended for it, not censured for it.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (11.39): Mr Speaker—

Mr Stanhope: Tell us about when you were locked up, Mr Pratt.

MR PRATT: I call for some order there, please, Mr Speaker.

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