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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 569

Mr TUCKEY —I address my question to the Minister for Territories and Local Government. Considering the establishment of several camps on the lawns in front of Parliament House, is it now permitted for all members of the public to use this area for camping? In particular, considering that this location is very convenient for a Federal member of parliament, will the Minister give me approval to establish a caravan on the lawns next week for use as a political and residential structure? If not, will the Minister end the present discrimination by removing the present camps?

Mr UREN —This Government stands for freedom of assembly and freedom to protest, even when that protest sometimes is directed against this Government. We have always stood for the rights of minorities. Quite frankly, I believe this Parliament should tolerate those minorities, particularly when many of them are suffering greatly in this society today. The camping of people in front of Parliament House has always been tolerated by all governments with rare exceptions. One exception, of course, occurred in the early 1970s. We know that members of the Aboriginal protest movement were removed by the then McMahon Government. At that time we pledged that when we came into government we would alter the regulations, which we tried to do, but we were defeated in the Senate. Since that time no real action has been taken by any government. At present we are discussing this matter within the Government with a view to amending the legislation so that there will be the right of freedom of assembly. But I say in fairness to all those people who have assembled in front of Parliament House that everyone of them has sought a permit before doing so. I am not saying that they needed a permit but, in fact, they all sought one. It has been suggested to me by the Prime Minister that if the honourable member wants to camp there we make sure that he forgoes his parliamentary allowance.