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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




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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 I will come back to those issues shortly. I think it is important to remember the general history of treaties, how they operate, and how devastating they can be if the process of treaty-making and alliances is allowed to get out of hand. It has to remembered that a treaty or an alliance is nothing more than an agreement between two countries. If we cast our mind back to July 1914 and read through the correspondence between the various European powers at that time, there was one European power trying its hardest to make sure that the alliance was still set with the next European power. So a small incident in the Balkans involving the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Gabro Princip, a Serbian national, ended up in a war that cost 10 million lives, simply by virtue of the fact that the Serbs were aligned with the Russians who were aligned with the French and the English, against the Austro-Hungarians who were aligned with Prussians and the rest of the Germanic nations. Consequently, you had an enormous war as a result of the treaty/alliance process. Every conflict that this country has been dragged into, from the Sudan contingent sent to Khartoum back in the 1850s to relieve General Gordon when he was under siege in Khartoum up until the present day, has been the result of an alliance that we had or some sort of arrangement we have had with other countries. That has meant one war every generation, with the exception of my generation, the current one. One war for every generation. The Khartoum contingent, the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, Borneo, Malaya, Vietnam. This is because we have been bound by various arrangements with other countries. I am not saying that we shouldnt have alliances or treaties. What I am saying is that we can afford to be a hell of a lot more careful about entering into them. To try to drive this point home, with the leave of this House, I will table a list of treaties that are up for discussion or are seeking assent in the next 12 months. Leave granted. Mr ELFERINK: I have counted them. There are 99 of them. Indeed, when the Senate was asked to inquire, it was presented with a list of 920 existing treaties, most of which are fairly recent exercises. They had the effect of usurping our federal system. We are talking about a fundamental attack on our system of government here. Let us not be a litde bit wishy-washy and clever about who said what in the press recently. Lets zero in on the actual issues. This is a fundamental attack against the federal system of government that we have in this country. And where was it started? And when was it continually used? It was continually used by the Labor government prior to the current federal Liberal government. And why did they use it? Simply to usurp states rights and states powers. A classic example of this is the Tasmanian dams case, which was the major issue in the Hawke election. This was appealed to the High Court because there was no constitutional ground that the federal government could rely on to actually interfere with the internal management of a state, other than treaty grounds. If we look at the Australian Constitution, the federal government was basically relying on the power to enter into treaties, which is an executive power under section 161 of the Constitution. This is obviously a power that the executive has to have because it deals with the business of governments on a day-to-basis. However, one would assume it would restrict itself to the areas listed under section 51, which are the areas that limit the powers of the federal government. Our founding fathers, when they created the Constitution, made that quite clear in section 51(xxix), which is the external affairs power. What the Commonwealth did in the Tasmanian dams case was deliberately use a treaty to undermine the constitutional separation between the states and the federal government. And when this little loophole was accepted by the High Court of this country, the effect was carte blanche on treaties. All of sudden we were signing up to all manner of treaties. This is entirely consistent with Labors approach to federalism in this country generally. When I hear comments from former Labor prime ministers such as Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke, who despise the second tier of government and say it should be removed, and when I hear calls of this nature all of the time, specifically from members on the Labor side of politics, I start to get very, very suspicious. Especially when you consider that the particular approach they are using is being rejected in other parts of the world. I mm my attention to the United Kingdom, which is in the process of federalising itself as we speak. Scotland has its parliament back. Wales has had the issue before them in referenda. Indeed, there is a Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland and there is talk about even subdividing England into various states or districts, creating a third tier of government. Why? Because local people, in identifiable areas, see themselves as needing the protection of their own parliamentary system. Yet, under the treaty process as it is being abused traditionally by Labor in this country, we see that the Labor side of politics is trying its very, very hardest to undermine the systems that have been so carefully built by our founding fathers. Our founding fathers werent 7546