Page 396 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

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from the opposition why they believe that public authorities should not have regard to human rights. Why do they believe that public authorities, government agencies, should not be held accountable in the courts for decisions that adversely impact on human rights? If they are so interested as a political organisation in protecting people’s rights, why would they move an amendment to deny people the opportunity to take action in the courts when their rights are being breached?

That is the real question. Why would they deny Canberra citizens the opportunity to take action against public authorities that breach their rights? Mr Seselja said that he believes that the Human Rights Act is ineffectual and unnecessary. Yet an amendment that perhaps, if you used his logic, would actually assist in making it more effectual and more meaningful to Canberra citizens is an amendment that he and his party oppose. They do not agree with developing a human rights culture here in the ACT. They simply do not agree to it. They should just remain consistent and continue to make that argument rather than try and flip-flop in the way that we are seeing them do with this amendment and with their approach to this bill.

This amendment strips away the right of action against public authorities. It strips it out. It hollows out the centre of the bill. It is not acceptable to government. The government will not support the amendment.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.25): I listened intently to both Mr Seselja and to the minister. I was looking to hear a persuasive argument why you would exclude public authorities from this legislation, and I am afraid I did not hear it. I understand the purpose of having a review. There was an argument that maybe we should hold the line and mark time until that review is conducted, but there is not anything being proposed along those lines ahead of that intended review.

The minister makes the point: why should public authorities be excluded from this process? If you are going to have this process why should they be out on their own? The couple that we keep talking about in Reid may well have been better protected had the planning authority in fact come under this piece of legislation. There are other instances that will now be captured by this amendment.

If you are going to have legislation of this type there is no compelling argument that I can see why you would leave out territory authorities, instrumentalities, ministers, police officers and the like in order to be inclusive. I question whether it will, at the end of the day, make much difference to the lives of ordinary Canberrans, despite what the minister says. I hear people say that these things are not high on their radar, and I do give a lot of regard to that, but I do not like to see bad legislation passed in this place. I think this legislation seeks to give more force to the intent of the law. For that reason on this occasion I am going to oppose the clause.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.27): In closing debate on this clause I note that the minister has refused to respond at all to the significant problems with the administration of the current law. He has not told us how he is going to make sure or how he has made sure that it actually is being enforced and actually is working and that when we get human rights compatibility statements we can actually believe them. Clearly there have been instances where that is not the case.

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