Page 1004 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 2 May 2006

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new to me—I have worked for many members here—the significance of this new role is not lost on me. The past four weeks have been a period of considerable change, not only for me but also for the government. The retirement of Ted Quinlan has been a loss to the Labor caucus, to this Assembly and to the people of the ACT. Ted has been a significant figure in territory politics over the past decade. The ACT economy is undeniably stronger and more robust as a result of Ted’s contribution as Treasurer. Canberra has benefited from his considerable economic expertise, strong sense of social justice and his ability as a parliamentarian. He is a hard act to follow.

During my 30 years in Canberra I have seen the city develop into a confident, progressive, outward-looking city with a firm view of its place as a national leader. The Canberra of 2006 is a far different place to the insecure, introspective, public service town that I remember in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My earliest memories of Canberra include living in Kambah and Macgregor—what were then the fringes of the city, in what seemed like the last houses on earth. Canberra has changed a lot since then. The establishment of self-government, the development of thriving education, tourism and IT sectors, the growth in the arts, the food and wine industries and the success of our home-grown sporting teams like the Raiders, the Brumbies and the Capitals have led to a greater sense of identity outside our role as the seat of national government.

I have been involved in the Labor Party since I was 18, and it too has changed. Under Jon Stanhope’s leadership it has embraced the modern Labor values of responsible economic management and progressive social reform. I am proud to be a member of the ALP and I am proud to advocate modern Labor values in this Assembly.

I strongly believe in a secular liberal democracy and the clear separation of church and state, which lies at its heart. I support the right of people to practise whichever religion they choose and use the teachings of their church as the basis for their morality. That being said, I do not believe organised religion has the franchise over morality or ethics.

I believe in justice and fairness, in the right of people to make their own decisions about matters that affect only them. I believe in freedom of choice. I believe in the right of consenting adults to make decisions about their relationships and sexual preferences. I believe fundamentally in a woman’s right to choose. I believe that good governments make a real difference to people’s lives.

A great Labor leader once said that when you change the government you change the country. That could just as easily have been a statement about our territory. With the election of the Stanhope government, this territory did change—for the better. The ACT is a more progressive and inclusive society than it was five years ago. Being progressive, though, means more than just paying lip-service to ideas like equality; it is about achieving concrete results to better people’s lives. We need to ensure that governments do not discriminate against their citizens because of where they are from, the institutions they choose to be part of, or not part of, and whom they choose as a partner.

The achievements of this government are numerous but there are three reforms that I believe will have a long-lasting effect on our community, namely: the Human Rights Act; the removal of abortion from the Criminal Code; and the gay and lesbian law reform process.

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