Page 4493 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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To illustrate the Chief Minister’s impact further, let us look at the Chief Minister’s record a little deeper in terms of his treading on the international stage. In 2002, I do not recall Mr Stanhope getting up and making a statement in support of the rescue and recovery of Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, Australians caught up in the conflict in Afghanistan.

In October-November 2005, I do not recall the Chief Minister standing up in this place and expressing support for the recovery and rescue of the Irish-born British citizen Margaret Hassan, who was working for an Australian organisation based in this town and who was taken hostage by al-Zarqawi foreign fighters in Iraq and then shot through the back of the head. In 2005, I do not recall Mr Stanhope substantially expressing this Assembly’s support for the rescue and recovery of Douglas Wood, taken hostage by Baathist terrorists.

What in common do all these people have—Peter Bunch, Diana Thomas, Margaret Hassan and Douglas Wood? Firstly, they were in those countries with expressed intentions and well-demonstrated motives, either through their humanitarian work or in their undertaking of engineering projects, to assist societies caught up in conflict—all aimed at building capacity in those societies.

The federal government worked very hard to rescue and recover those people and many others who have been jailed in other societies for reasons of their own wrongdoing. The federal government has always demonstrated support. I would add: the federal government has worked hard and continues to work hard to defend David Hicks’s and Mamdouh Habib’s rights. They expressed the same amount of support, energy and time in the pursuit of Hicks’s and Habib’s cases as they did Thomas’s, Woods’s, Hassan’s and Bunch’s.

But what do we see? The only effort we see on the part of this Chief Minister is to make, and was to make, massive and repeated noises about David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, not the previous four people that I mentioned. Why? Because this was purely a way of attacking the federal government. That was the only reason. He simply used and has used those people as vehicles to attack the federal government. We do not see the same expression of support, sympathy and empathy for other people who have been in predicaments overseas.

He continues to ruin our federal relationships by being blind-sighted by his ideological position, expressing support for people with deeply dubious motives, working against the societies that they were present in. He risks all sensibility because it is much more important to attack John Howard, again ruining the ACT’s relationship with the federal government.

We have seen over these last few years of government a gradual gravitation by government towards human rights, as a priority, which has occurred at the growing expense of the delivery of essential services and good governance to the ACT. We are seeing from the Stanhope government less and less inclination to focus on the greater good both territorially and nationally. The protection of broader community safety is increasingly sacrificed in this government’s pursuit of rights for a range of minority interests.

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