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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7254

Senator KNOWLES (11:31 AM) —I oppose this amendment. No-one can accuse me of not being a states' righter, but I find it somewhat incredible that the people who in the main are supporting this amendment are the very people who voted in favour of the Andrews bill to overturn the decision of a territory government. The Territory has self-government. Whether it is a state or not, it has a constitutional right for its parliament to decide the issues for its territory. But the people in this parliament who are now, basically, supporting this amendment decided that those people did not have that right.

It is interesting because, as Senator Stott Despoja will affirm, I had someone from the National Civic Council in Western Australia ring me up and give me a right proper old blast on the basis that I voted against the Andrews bill—partly because it overrode the decisions of the Northern Territory parliament—and I was accused of being totally and utterly inconsistent with my position in support of this bill. The National Civic Council said to me, `There are hundreds of members of parliament around Australia who oppose the agreement that COAG came to.' I asked the representative of the NCC: `Who are they? Give me names, dates, times and places when they have actually expressed that opposition. Tell me who in the Victorian, Tasmanian and Western Australian parliaments have said that they totally and utterly disagree with the premiers' position on this.' That conversation took place about two months ago, and here we are 5 December and I still do not have that list. That is instructive, too. The conversation was turned immediately when I asked for that list.

There should not be that type of inconsistency. As a very strong states' righter, I am quite happy with my position. I will uphold the decision of COAG in the same way as I upheld the decision of the Northern Territory parliament to vote according to what the parliamentarians believed their constituents wanted in the Northern Territory. I find it quite inconsistent for those people who took that position quite some time ago on euthanasia and the Northern Territory decisions to now be saying that we must uphold the position of unnamed, unknown people who are outraged at the decision of COAG.