Page 3745 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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MR STANHOPE: In the preamble to the question, Mr Stefaniak asserts a claim or a report that I had changed my mind at the COAG meeting at the end of September. In fact, at no stage have I changed my mind. The position I took to the COAG meeting was that I was seeking a justification from the Prime Minister and his advisors on the necessity of the legislation and that, if that justification were provided, I would support the legislative proposals, subject to their being human rights compliant.

At no stage prior to the COAG meeting did I say I would not support the proposals that the Prime Minister had on the table—at no stage. To preface a question with “you changed your mind” is a distortion of the truth. In fact, it is not true. I did not change my mind. I know that this assertion or allegation featured in the debate this morning, and it is simply not true. I challenge you to point to evidence that I changed my mind.

I went to the meeting at COAG saying that I was looking for the Prime Minister to justify his proposals. I then said that if they were justified and I accepted them, I had a number of issues around civil liberties and human rights on which I would require some undertakings from the Prime Minister and the commonwealth before I could support the package. That is the position I took to the meeting. That is my position; that is the truth of it.

Your question is based on a falsehood. It is always difficult to answer a question when it comes from a position that is not true. It is very much a feature of questions here: “Chief Minister, here is such a statement or allegation”, which happens to be untrue. The question then follows—an assertion that is simply not true.

I explained it this morning. I have explained it ad nauseam over the past four days. I am very happy to have the opportunity to explain it again. It needs to be understood. I fear—based on the fact that I went through this in detail this morning and have on a number of occasions over the past few days—that the shadow attorney and his colleagues do not understand the process of referral of powers. They essentially do not understand the constitutional arrangements that apply between the commonwealth and the states. They do not understand that the law that we are discussing, namely the anti-terrorism bill, is a creature of referred constitutional lawmaking power from the states and territories to the commonwealth.

At no stage in this process did I, as Chief Minister of the ACT, hand to the commonwealth or the Prime Minister any authority over the status of this legislation. I did not say to the Prime Minister, “Prime Minister, yes, I’ve agreed to a broad outline or a broad framework of laws that you may now go away and draft and I now wash my hands of the process completely. I leave it to you to consult. I leave it to you to determine the content of the legislation.” I did no such thing.

I said to the Prime Minister at COAG—I actually used the words in the meeting—“As you know, Prime Minister, in relation to this particular proposal, and indeed in relation to all legislation, the devil is in the detail.” That is what I said to the Prime Minister: “The devil is in the detail.” I then asked that COAG be reconvened, but I lacked the numbers on the day. I was unsuccessful in that request.

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