Page 455 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 8 March 2011

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to disallow the relevant territory law. No legal challenge necessary. No tedious to and fro in the parliament. No need to consult. No need, in fact, to stand up and to defend one’s position. It is the sort of situation where, of course, a good education might come in handy.

This is a motion about principle—a principle that I do not believe any Australian could genuinely or seriously argue against. There will be those who say that it is a debate that takes our collective eye off more important issues. The answer to that is that we do, of course, all the time in this place deal with a myriad of issues at the same time. Besides, relevance is always in the eye of the beholder.

But principles do endure, while issues come and go. Who is to say that the next issue to come along will not resonate with and profoundly affect the men and women who today argue that this chamber or this Assembly ought not waste its time on minority causes or that it is reasonable and appropriate that there be another parliament of other people with a right of veto over whatever it may be that this chamber decides on behalf of the people that elect us.

I am aware that this is just one view. I am aware of views, and a range of views, about how to best progress a review of the self-government act, our constitution. I do acknowledge that this is just one provision in the self-government act deserving of attention. Some might argue that it would be better not to deal piecemeal, one by one, with the issues of concern. I acknowledge that there is a broad-reaching and broad-ranging acknowledgement. I am aware, indeed, that all of the parties represented in this place have a view, perhaps not entirely meshed or consistent, that there are aspects of the self-government act that do need review, do need refinement, do need change.

There may be some that would argue that it is not perhaps efficient, appropriate or in the best interests of our constitution or constitutional arrangements to deal with issues of concern one by one. I can understand the argument; there is a certain logic to it. But the contrary position is that for 10 years now, I—and other members in this place, but I most particularly—have been seeking support consistently, from three successive federal governments now, for a broad, general, overarching, thorough review of the constitutional arrangements—in other words the self-government act.

I have made repeated representations in writing and in person to three successive prime ministers, to successive attorneys-general and to successive ministers for the territory that this is an issue, a genuine issue, affecting the Australian Capital Territory, affecting this parliament and affecting the arrangements under which this Assembly works within the context of our self-governing role and our democratic right.

I acknowledge that there are a number of other issues. There is most lately an issue being pursued around Australia by other parliaments in relation to the capacity to recognise within the preamble of constitutions the prior custodianship of this place by Indigenous Australians. The parliament of New South Wales recently, through a chamber such as this, resolved to amend the preamble to its constitution to acknowledge just that prior custodianship, ownership, occupation and traditional rights and traditional values that Indigenous people have.

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