Page 4733 - Week 15 - Tuesday, 13 December 2005
the Catholic Church does on social justice and on human rights and of its very significant commitment obviously, as expressed through the teachings of the church, to equality, egalitarianism and justice.
As a long-time admirer of the Catholic Church, I was most pleased and most honoured to receive the invitation to give perhaps the most significant lecture or paper that is presented through the aegis of the Melbourne Commission for Justice, Development and Peace. Those are all issues close to my heart. Justice, development and peace are issues in which I take a particular interest. They are at the heart of my personal philosophy and they are very much at the heart of my personal political philosophy and at the heart of much of what Christianity and the church stand for.
The letter of invitation that I received commended me and congratulated me for the particular stand that I had taken in Australia in relation to human rights and the response to terrorism. I was flattered to receive from the Catholic Church—indeed, from the Melbourne archdiocese—such unexpected praise for a stand or position that I had taken. Of course, that does, in the context of the question asked by the shadow attorney, reflect on this government and on the ACT. I admit that I found it flattering that the Catholic Church, through the commission, should praise me in such unexpected and uninvited terms as it did.
I was looking forward very much to presenting the lecture. It was with some surprise that I received, in the first instance, a letter from the commission withdrawing the invitation on the basis of my acknowledged public position on life issues. I was not entirely sure what life issues were in the context of an invitation to deliver a paper on the need for human rights in the terrorist age. I felt initially, in my confusion, that perhaps it had something to do with the stand I had taken against the death penalty and the execution of Van Nguyen and then it dawned on me that it was because the ACT had decriminalised abortion and it all became clear that it had to do with the right to lifers, I do not know whether within Canberra or within Melbourne. I must say that I am suspicious about the genesis of the campaign.
I understand now, post the withdrawal of the invitation, that there was a furious campaign within the church, which actually had tentacles all the way from Melbourne to Sydney and throughout Canberra. We discover now that the invitation to deliver a speech on human rights, an invitation which was actually extended following admiration for me within the Catholic Church in Melbourne as a result of the position that I took on terrorism, was cancelled, withdrawn, because—shock, horror!—I do not share the Catholic teaching on abortion. It is interesting that in a debate around terrorism, civil liberties, human rights, opposition to sedition, and the need for free speech the Catholic Church felt that I should not utilise my right to free speech because I did not agree with the Catholic Church on a woman’s right to choose.
MR SPEAKER: Order! The minister’s time has expired.
MR STANHOPE: I would welcome a supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
MR STEFANIAK: I am delighted to give you one. Attorney, given the ACT’s parlous budgetary position, thanks to your government’s mismanagement, wouldn’t it have been