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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2752

Senator VIGOR(11.10) —in reply-In closing this debate I wish to express some degree of disappointment in the Opposition for not supporting this measure, and particularly for withdrawing its motion, which would have meant that this Parliament could have had an influence on, or at least the ability to reject, the remuneration that was proposed for members of the Advisory Council. I say this particularly in light of statements that were made by Mr Howard in 1974 when he was a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, which recommended full-blooded self-government. He is now the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Howard, in a speech which he made in March 1975 when that Committee's report was tabled, said:

I express the view that at all stages the Committee's deliberations on the form of self-government which should be adopted for the Australian Capital Territory were approached in a non-partisan way and in a non-political fashion. This exercise was perhaps the first time since Federation when a committee of any Parliament in Australia had had the opportunity, as it were, of starting from scratch and drawing up an outline of the form of self-government for a part of the Australian Commonwealth.

In fact, I know that what was proposed by the Government was not the enlightened proposals which the Craig Committee-the Task Force on Implementation of Australian Capital Territory Self-Government-or the Joint Parliamentary Committee whose members included Mr Howard supported. Amongst the other recommendations of the Committee were that self-government be granted to the Australian Capital Territory community in as wide a term as is consistent with the national interest. The Committee also stated that legislation for the Australian Capital Territory on all matters not reserved for national control should emanate from within the Assembly and not from a body external to it-which is what the Federal Parliament does.

I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Canberra Association for Regional Development, which represents a large number of bodies within the Canberra community. The letter is addressed to the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes), but copies were sent to both Senator Lewis and me during the negotiations. I believe it admirably sets out what the bodies which are members of CARD believe on this matter. I have shown it to senators on both sides of the House.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

10 September 1986

The Hon. G. Scholes, MP

Minister for Territories

Parliament House


Dear Minister

I refer to your letter of 7 August 1986, in which you responded to my letter of 19 June 1986, to the Prime Minister about ACT self-government.

It is disappointing that you equate the quite limited consultation you had with the ACT House of Assembly's Transition to Territorial Government Committee with the full and frank negotiations between two groups of politicians on a basis of equality which were contemplated in my letter.

In your letter you state the actual position when you refer to meeting ``with the Assembly and the committee on several occasions to discuss aspects of the legislation''. (my underlining)

Clearly full and complete negotiation was not permitted, and this was not surprising in the light of the many messages we and the community received through statements by yourself, Ros Kelly and John Langmore which made it clear that the proposal was on a ``take it or leave it'' basis. My Association has, of course, had discussions with the Assembly's committee and we have no reason to believe it was consulting from the strength of equality. Rather it consulted from the weakness of subservience.

Because these facts are a matter of public record I am sure there is no need for me to quote press statements, radio comments, etc., which stressed this message. However, we believe the Canberra Times Editorial on 20 March 1986, correctly described the general perception of the situation when it said-``the arrogance of the government's insistence on no amendment is particularly insulting in the context of what the legislation is supposed to be about. It is as if the Government wants to stress that the whole package is an imposition, not a bargain or compact.''

In developing its model the government chose to ignore the previous recommendations of Parliamentary Joint Committees, the ACT House of Assembly and the Craig Task Force. It is our understanding that, had the House of Assembly's Committee been able to negotiate from a position of equality, it would certainly have used these recommendations as a model.

I draw to your attention two comments in your second reading speech on the ACT Council Bill 1986.

- ``It (the ACT) stands as the last remaining significant community in the Western World having no form of local or state administration answerable to the people''.

- ``Taxation without representation'' is a long-heard and valid catchcry. The people of Canberra have a right and indeed a responsibility to elect representatives to oversee the spending of the revenue raised in the ACT''.

We support those two statements and on them we base our position which I now repeat.

- We believe the present lack of self-government in the ACT is an indictment on a democratic and claimed `nondiscriminatory' government.

- With the failure of the proposed legislation the gross discrimination against the ACT community continues.

- We do not believe this is defensible, nor do we accept attempts to lay the blame solely at the door of other parties.

- We seek the election of a representative body, under the existing electoral system, with power to negotiate the terms for the transition of relevant powers to a self-governing body.

- We do not support a reversion to the position which existed in the 1930s-that is, an appointed advisory body.

I will be sending copies of this letter to the Prime Minister and to the ACT representatives in the Parliament.

Yours sincerely

R. A. Schall


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. Part of the letter reads:

We believe the present lack of self-government in the Australian Capital Territory is an indictment on a democratic and claimed `non-discriminatory' government.

The Association believes that the current situ- ation is not defensible.

In summary, my arguments concern the fact that there have been broken promises by the Minister throughout this proposal for self- government. There have been errors in Press releases. I believe that the Minister will become known as the Minister for dog licences and garbage, because basically a Minister of the Crown will have to consider all of these matters in detail at his level. It is quite beyond my understanding why anybody would want to deal with those matters at the Federal level. I believe we have not heard the end of this process, because I believe the appeals through the successor to the Human Rights Commission will result in further deliberations on the matter. The people of Canberra will get effective self-government at some stage even if it means that the current Federal Government has to be kicked out before they get it. It certainly is a right for the people of Canberra. I believe this Ordinance that I am urging the Senate to reject is an insult to the people of Canberra. If the Minister for Territories wants to have his Advisory Committee he should have it and not put the provision into an ordinance.

The main problem with this Advisory Council is that it is being paid for by the taxpayer. That is a scandal. We are being expected to pay for something which is of absolutely no use to the people of Canberra. That is why the Democrats are opposing this process. The Opposition is quite prepared to have it happen so that it can hold the Government up to ridicule and point out that the Minister is just a dictator in this matter. The Democrats are not prepared for the people of Australia to suffer and to pay out money for such a folly. I believe that it is the responsibility of every thinking senator to oppose this Ordinance.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Vigor's) be agreed to.