Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 June 2009) . . Page.. 2410 ..
ceremonial sitting, and since then I have learnt that other letters were written before that, although without reply, it seems. And we learnt, once I announced our intention to move on this in the Assembly, that fruitful discussions between Attorney-General Corbell and ex-home minister Debus have been moving things along, perhaps.
But I think it is best to get out there and try to make the change you want rather than merely trust that behind-the-scenes discussions will make the difference. That is why this motion, in the first instance, seeks to give the ACT Chief Minister the unanimous support of this Assembly in his attempts to engage the Prime Minister. I am confident that the unanimous support of the Assembly would give the Chief Minister more credence on this issue, relating, as it does, to the operation of self-government, to democracy rather than politics.
It is also why this motion calls for the Speaker to deliver a remonstrance to the commonwealth parliament and put our claim to all members of the Australian parliament, because the concerns of a small jurisdiction, protesting at the arbitrary, unaccountable power of the Prime Minister and the discriminatory nature of the law that allows those powers to be used unaccountably, ought to reach the members of the parliament which has actual responsibility for that law. In arguing for the democratic rights and responsibilities of ACT citizens, the Assembly itself ought to address the parliament of Australia.
It is a fascinating thing then that neither the Labor Party nor the Liberal Party can countenance this remonstrance. It may be that the notion of the Assembly making a claim on Parliament House is somehow embarrassing for them. Furthermore, given Parliament House is so big and the MPs come from all over the country—and of course few think highly of Canberra—there is probably no point in putting our case before them because they probably could not care less.
I am foreshadowing here the expectation that we will not gain support for the remonstrance that makes up the bulk of this motion, and that is disappointing. If I had time, I would read it out aloud but, given it is a part of this motion, the Greens take comfort from the fact that it will be incorporated in Hansard. It is a good document that simply and clearly puts forward the case for the enhancement of democracy in the ACT. It makes the point that the promise of full democracy invoked when the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act was passed in 1988 has not been delivered. It explains how the disallowance works, how it has been used, how uncertain its application is in the future. It eloquently illustrates the undemocratic, inequitable nature of this section of the act and calls on the commonwealth parliament to:
… affirm the rights of the people of the Australian Capital Territory to self-government by removing the relevant provisions … and so enhance the democratic character of the Australian Capital Territory.
The key problem with the remonstrance, as it was put to us, is that, by necessity, it explained when the offending section of the self-government act was used. The mere mention, it would seem, of the Civil Unions Act 2006 is the kiss of death for discussions about democracy. I think such peculiar sensitivity to something that, in essence, is about a simple act of commitment and affection is remarkable.