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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12097

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (19:00): I want to make some brief comments in conclusion. I thank the members who have contributed to the debate, particularly those representing electorates in the Australian Capital Territory, who have accurately understood what this bill is about and what it is not about. This bill will not remove the power of the parliament to have the constitutional oversight, provided for in the Constitution, of what happens in the territories. But what it will do, as the member for Fraser said, is make it impossible for the government, through its executive, to simply override with the stroke of a pen a decision and a law that has been made after due deliberation by mature assemblies in this country.

There have been some rather odd contributions to the debate, including a suggestion that there has been no consultation on this and it is not what people in the territories want. Well, perhaps the member who made that contribution overlooked the fact that the chief ministers of both the ACT and the Northern Territory have thrown their support behind this bill.

I was disappointed to hear the contribution from the member for Solomon. The member for Solomon has been a fierce advocate for the rights of the people of the Northern Territory—so much so that, when it came to the debate about the siting of Australia's first nuclear waste dump, she came and sat with us when we sought to oppose the move by the federal minister in this place to impose a nuclear waste dump on the Northern Territory against the wishes of Territorians. At the time, the member for Solomon made the point that the citizens of the Northern Territory should not have something like that imposed on them if they did not want it simply because they are a territory. And we agreed. And if one is to be consistent with that position then one must support this bill. The amendment moved will not have our support because it would have the effect of defeating the bill and pushing back the very cause that the member for Solomon is very powerfully advocating for.

But perhaps the most egregious contribution to the debate has been the suggestion that this is some sort of recent invention by the Greens. If you look at the parliamentary record, you will see that for as long as the Greens, and in particular, Senator Bob Brown, have been in this place, this has been a cause that we have pursued passionately. It came, firstly, in the context of the bill from the member for Menzies, Kevin Andrews. At that stage, as anyone would know—and you can check the record if you want confirmation of it—there was a vigorous defence of the right of the territories to legislate in accordance with what they consider to be in the interests of peace, order and good governance in their territories. That is the position we Greens have held steadfastly since we have been here, and we are now proudly in a position where we can bring legislation into both chambers and, the next couple of debate and votes willing, have it passed through the parliament this year. We are not going to support the detailed amendments that are put forward because they cut across the basic principle of self-governance. What this bill will do is move territorians a step closer to being on an equal footing with their compatriots around the country. It will retain the right of this parliament to have oversight of the territories and it will move them a step closer to self-governance. For that reason, it ought to be supported by all members in this place.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The question is that the amendment be agreed to. There being more than one voice calling for a division, in accordance with standing order 133(b) the division is deferred until after 8 pm.

Debate adjourned.