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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 4789

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryDeputy Leader of The Nationals) (10:37): It is very rare for me to rise in this place and feel sorry for those on the other side, particularly for my colleague from the Northern Territory, but I think it is reasonable to put on the public record why they are taking this position. The reason my heart goes out to them is I am actually quite sure the leather is softer on that side. It is a long time since I sat over there, but it was certainly a lot more comfortable. There are a lot of benefits that go with government which make you want to stay on that side.

The sad thing about Labor's position is that it has had a very light spray of green over all of its motives. It is really important to have a look at the motive today. Senator Crossin stood in this place today, as she always does on any issues in regard to the Northern Territory, and said that we are moving along towards statehood. I have been very pleased to stand in this place on the most recent issue, legislating for euthanasia, and I support her in that regard. If you look at the motive for all of this behaviour, it is simply to stay in government. That is the rawest deal. Of course the Greens have a great deal of influence, as they should in those circumstances, to ensure that this government does what it is told. Today we see the Labor government being pretty compliant and the Greens should be very pleased with that—it seems to be behaving appropriately and it is not being too naughty or doing things that the Greens do not require.

If we are looking to motive, perhaps we should examine the Greens' motives. Motive is very important in life. Why is it that we are moving along with this? Why is it that, suddenly, Bob Brown has a terrific love affair with the territories? He is very keen on the territories and on the people who live in the territories, but he is particularly keen on the legislation in the Northern Territory. As has been indicated today, Bob Brown hardly seems to have a consistent approach. He is, today, basically saying that the Common­wealth should not interfere with the Northern Territory or with the Australian Capital Territory—'The poor devils, we should allow them exactly the same rights as a state.' It sure seems odd. I do not know whether it was a different bloke, but whoever it was, Senator Brown, I recall him standing in here saying: 'Let's overturn the mandatory sentencing laws in the Territory. How dare they take their own stand in the Northern Territory and have their own rights to determine how they deal with the criminal justice system. Let's use the Common­wealth's powers in this place, in this Senate, to overturn them.' You can understand why I am a little bit confused in that regard.

I wonder what the motive is. You cannot accuse the Greens of not being organised or of not having a motive. They do have a motive. There is a very clear motive here and it has been indicated earlier. The cat has already been belled. If Katy Gallagher was not happy to stand up and say that this is all about introducing same-sex marriages in the Australian Capital Territory, the previous Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope, certainly was. He said: 'Absolutely. Looking forward to introducing same-sex marriages in the Australian Capital Territory.' In regard to this piece of legislation that those on the other side have been forced to accept, they have been given foolish assurances and have been foolish to accept those assurances. Those on the other side have accepted that that is the case.

Senator Cormann: She is not ruling it out.

Senator SCULLION: Of course Gallagher did not rule it out because that is exactly what is going to happen. As sure as night follows day this will happen. Perhaps I can just briefly paint the picture of how it will occur. This legislation does, in effect, say that instead of using an executive arm of government to deal with issues that are not within a state's capacity to legislate on—things like marriage, starting your own navy, having your own currency, taxation and immigration—if the territories play with that area, we are going to have to come back and have a full debate in parliament. That takes a bit of time. The scenario is that, if the Australian Capital Territory passes a law on Monday, we might have a bit of a think about recalling parliament, if that is the will of the government, and maybe we will have an emergency session a week later. If, during that period of time, people are lawfully married, for example, in the Australian Capital Territory, what happens to them? They were lawfully married. Does the Commonwealth then come back and say, 'We've got some weird retrospectivity in all of this about how we unwind this mess.'

That is what I believe the motive for this is. If you wish to have same-sex marriages, there is a process to do that. I argued strongly in this place during the debate on one of the previous contributions from Senator Brown in the Restoring Territory Rights (Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation) Bill 2010. I know that Senator Brown is a strong proponent of introducing euthanasia. I supported that bill not on the basis of whether I thought euthanasia legislation was being supported but because it is entirely the right of a state to make that decision. I also would expect, if the Northern Territory decided to start its own navy and its own currency or decided to start its own immigration system, that there would be an immediate action from the executive to deal with that. That is just a little about motive. Without a doubt that is what is going to happen.

Those people on the other side who think they are not part of something that will lead to what I have just described are, at best, fools. I know the comfort, vaguely recalled in my distant past, of being on that side. But remember: when this happens, your constituents will remember those who led them to that circumstance. If you want to introduce same-sex marriage, there is a way to go about that: you come to this place—because it is the Commonwealth which should legislate on those matters. Do not use some sort of a backdoor agenda to deal with these issues. Sadly, in the Northern Territory a few people are quite excited. They have rung me and said that they are really excited that this is going to give them more rights in the Territory. Once they have all the infor­mation they then understand that this is not another step forward in moving towards statehood.

I would just like to speak briefly about the foreshadowed amendment from Senator Humphries. Senator Crossin said: 'This is something we can't possibly support because it doesn't do anything for the Northern Territory.' I agree with that. She said, 'We don't want the self-government act revised.' Of course I agree: we want it abolished; we want to move to statehood. The Australian Capital Territory and the legislative framework are in an entirely different place to where we are in the Northern Territory, so I agree completely with her.

I would like Senator Crossin and people in the Territory to reflect on another contri­bution from Senator Humphries. In the next week of parliament we will be jointly submitting a process that will start a fair dinkum look at self-government in the Aust­ralian Capital Territory and the movement to statehood in the Northern Territory. It is not just a process on a couple of very small squeaky wheels. This will be a fair dinkum process with the motive of moving to strengthen self-government in the Australian Capital Territory and moving to statehood in the Northern Territory. That is the motive. That is what it will be about.

For those Territorians who think that this will somehow advance statehood, I can promise you that being astride a green horse with squeaky wheels is not the way to move forward. Look to the motive. This is an insult to those people who are actually striving for statehood in the Northern Territory and looking for stronger self-government in the Australian Capital Territory because it is about none of those things. On this side, we are clear-eyed and bright and we can see through the motive for this legislation. We do not accept that this is about strengthening issues for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. That is why we will not be supporting this legislation.