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




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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 stupid. They took their time. They had a damn good look around and they built a hybrid system between the United States and the W estminster systems. In my opinion, it has provided us with the finest system of government in the world. It is also important to remember that this is not the only case. The erosion of states rights goes back to the Teoh case. For those members who dont recall it, I will jog their memory. Two illegal immigrants who had a child here in Australia relied on a treaty signed by the federal government of the time to make sure that they could use it as a mechanism to defeat the legislation and stay in the country. The Chief Minister referred to the case in his own comments during his statement to this Chamber late last year. It basically says that when a statute or subordinate legislation is ambiguous, the court should favour that construction which accords with Australias obligations under treaty or international convention to which Australia is a party. Every time we sign up to a treaty, what we are doing is agreeing with other countries, either unilaterally, bilaterally or multilaterally. We treat with several other countries, or the United Nations, or a particular country. In fact, we are signatory to some 500 bilateral treaties. Once again, I stress that I am not against the treaty-making process per se. I think that in this world it would be very difficult indeed to isolate oneself completely. That is just the nature of the world. Even in economic terms alone, international boundaries are meaning less and less over time. Nevertheless, we are a sovereign nation and as a sovereign nation we have every right in the world to try to protect our interests before we protect the interests of other nations. I am unconvinced about treaties, especially when Gareth Evans was running all over this planet signing treaties with whomever he wanted so he could override a state in this country. It was an abuse of power and, indeed, it was what forced the Howard Government on 8 December 1994 to get the Senate to create a committee to look into the treaty process. This committee tabled its report on 29 November 1995. The committee made several recommendations in relation to this matter. I urge members to read recommendation 7 and recommendation 8, which went a very, very long way to dealing with the issues and preventing future governments from signing up for treaties willy-nilly. The Chief Ministers motion will give legislative effect to the ratification process. This is a further fundamental step in the processes outlined by the federal Senate committee. I believe that the Chief Minister has a very good point. I believe that the Chief Ministers motion before this House deserves this Houses support. I hope that the signal it will send is that we have to take our treaty obligations very seriously indeed. Mr BURKE (Chief Minister): Mr Speaker, I thank the member for Macdonnell for his support and his comments. I beheve I have the support of this side of the House. I was disappointed that the member for Nhulunbuy chose to quote the so-called experts on either side of politics federally who are against this proposition being put before the federal parliament. He makes the suggestion that, if I want this to proceed seriously, I should speak to the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and seek his support and, in that way, somehow this would proceed easier. The other option, which I can assure him I have pursued, is to consult with my federal colleague Senator Tambling and the Country Liberal Party party members to gauge their support for putting this proposition to the federal parliament. Why do I take the course of introducing draft legislation in this Northern Territory parliament that has no authority on this matter? Simple courtesy, Mr Speaker. It is a simple courtesy to gauge the support of this parliament. If that support is forthcoming, it would add some weight to the case that will be put before the federal parliament. It will not simply be a case of the Northern Territory government going to the federal parliament. My actions from this point, if the motion is passed, would be to write individually to every federal member of every political party and gauge their support prior to making any moves to introduce the bill federally and, of course, if that is done, it will be done through the good offices of our federal senator. It strikes me that the comments from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are in many ways the nub of the problem. And in many ways it is why simple propositions are dismissed by the so-called learned in our society or the so-called learned amongst our politicians. Perhaps it is an indicator as to why politicians, who may not appear to be so well schooled, so well learned, or so well experienced, are gaining more and more support amongst the electorate. And I beheve this is one such case. I ask the question: Why doesnt the opposition, through its deputy leader, have any opinion at all on the matter? All they can do is quote the opinions of others. To my mind, the proposition is a very simple one: If Australia as a nation is to be bound by treaties that are struck in the international arena, surely Australians should have a real say in the decision making process. No matter what argument is put up in terms of both parties being happy with 7547

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