Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 Territory Chief Minister Denis Burkes proposal that treaties be approved by a two thirds majority o f both Houses o f Federal Parliament: Denis Burke has already embarrassed himself this week with ignorant claims that the federal parliament plays no role in Australias treaty-making process, Mr Brereton said. The federal government should take the opportunity provided by todays Council of Australian Governments meeting to tell Mr Burke his idea is fundamentally ill- conceived. As I pointed out earlier this week, Australias treaty-making process enjoys strong bipartisan support. It requires that international treaties be tabled in the federal parliament for at least 15 sitting days before binding action is taken. Treaties are reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which has produced no less than 36 reports dealing with 189 treaty actions over the past four years. In many cases, implementing legislation is required before ratification can take place. In addition, Australias treaty-making process involves consultation between the federal government and state and territory governments, including through the operation of the Treaties Council and the Standing Committee on Treaties. Mr Burkes proposal that treaties be approved by a two-thirds majority of both Houses of the federal parliament would require constitutional amendment likely to produce deadlocks which would have a disastrous impact on Australias capacity to engage with the international community. The Howard governments own review of the treaty-making process released in August last year concluded the government has carefully considered this issue and concluded that a requirement for parliamentary approval of treaties is not justified. This is because the reformed treaty procedures have themselves sufficiently improved public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. Moreover, those treaties that would directly affect the rights and duties of individuals in Australia already require parliaments consideration of the implementing legislation. A procedure of parliamentary approval as opposed to the current system of parliamentary scrutiny would result in significant delays in the treaty process without any significant benefits additional to those aheady achieved as a result of the reformed treaty making process. That was the Howard governments own review and they rejected the idea put forward by the Chief Minister. So, I wonder about the level of homework that the Chief minister did on this issue; I wonder about his sincerity and how serious he really is about seeking meaningful change. Federal Attorney-General Williams joined in at about the same time, or a bit later, along the same lines as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Laurie Brereton, the shadow minister for foreign affairs. It is clearly a federal parliament matter; it is in their province. Both major parties agree with the system the way it is and they see no need to change it. The Howard government, your government, your side, saw no need to change it. Your own Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, sees no need to change it. The Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, is quite happy with the process. Mr Speaker, we dont support the Chief Ministers motion. If he is serious about this sort of stuff, do your homework, make your contacts, work out your process. Dont come in here with a half- baked motion when you havent talked to anyone. It really seems that you dont understand the current process. Do your homework in the first place, put the proper steps in place, and you might get the support of this side of the House. M r ELFERINK (Macdonnell): Mr Speaker, I rise to make my own observations on this. However, I have to pick up where the member for Nhulunbuy left off. He spent his whole time criticising comments made by the Chief Minister and which had nothing to do with the motion before this House. The motion before this House says nothing about constitutional change in Australia The motion before this House does, however, as the member for Nhulunbuy read out, states that points (1) and (2), along with other reforms put in place in 1996, should have the force of legislation rather than be reliant on the goodwill of the government of the day. That is not a small matter at all. Its a very important matter. Its a fundamentally important matter. Indeed, it does concur to some degree with the Senates inquiry in relation to how treaties operate in this country. 7545

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