Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001
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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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 the arrangements that exist at the moment, they are guidelines for the executive of government to follow if they wish. Those guidelines were put in place in various forms as early as 1961 when Sir Robert Menzies realised there needed to be a smoother process as to how Australia entered into treaties. He set up, at the time, a process and over the years that process was essentially abandoned. It reached its height during the Hawke/Keating years when the Labor Party entered into treaties in the most outrageous way. That method of operation led to the Senate inquiry called Trick or Treaty (if anyone wants to read it, it is on the Internet) and has led in part to this motion before the House. I make no apology for the fact that the arguments over mandatory sentencing sent me in my search as to why Australia is bound by these treaties. The Northern Territory government was pilloried nationally and internationally by so many self-interest groups who reached for their moral crutch by calling on Australias obligations under so-called international treaties. But if one looks at those treaties, one sees some fundamental flaws. Firstly, many leading countries in the world refuse to sign up to many of these treaties, yet at the same time Australia seems to fall head over heels to be one of the first to sign up to them. There is no real process in place for the Australian people to be consulted, and the appropriate mechanism is, of course, through our federal parliament. To my mind there is a simple way to ensure the views of the states and territories are represented - enacting legislation that results in treaties needing to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate. Of course, there are other methods that might also be used, but I believe this mechanism has legislative clout. It requires overwhelming support, in the form of two- thirds of either House, to show that this treaty is broadly supported by the Australian people. This seems important to me as this year we are celebrating the centenary of our federation. We are applauding the statute that brought Australia into being as a nation, under a constitution that gave rights and also responsibilities to the states and to the federal parliament. The federal parliament is encroaching onto the rights of states and, by default, now territories, through changes in taxation powers and through the foreign affairs power to enter into treaties. The enhanced power of the executive of government should send a warning sign to everyone, particularly in our centenary of federation as we look at the strength of our constitution and how well that constitution is serving Australia as a nation in this centenary year. The other reason I am introducing the legislation and proposing the motion is that it seems to me that this is a time for Australia to stand tall and go back to the principle of what we are. We are a sovereign nation. We make up our own minds as to what we will do and what we wont do; what agreements we will enter into and what agreements we wont. We have the mechanism to do that, and that is through our federal parliament. International treaties bind Australians by law. That has precedent by the comments that have aheady been expressed in the High Court and elsewhere. The parameters that these treaties do set up have been well and truly outiined in my second-reading speech. I cant, for the life of me, understand why federal politicians are so fearful of such a simple mechanism. I believe that in itself is an example of how politicians are becoming more and more out of touch with the needs and wishes of Australians. I believe that if you explained the simple proposition to the average man in the street that any international treaty Australia enters into should be supported by two thirds of the federal parliament, it would be unanimously supported. I cant understand why it is dismissed so easily by federal politicians. I must admit that I did hope for bipartisan support in this parliament, particularly from a Labor party that proposes to have an agreed approach on the rights of Territorians to make their own laws without fear of interference from the federal parliament - and particularly after the two recent examples with our Rights o f the Terminally III Act and our mandatory sentencing laws. On both occasions a lot of the criticism called on and looked to international treaties. I commend the motion to the House. I hope it receives support. I am sure it will from this side of the House. Following on from that, I intend to write to all members of the federal parliament with a view to gauging further support and proposing this draft legislation to the federal parliament. Motion agreed to. ADJOURNMENT Mr PALMER (Leader of Government Business): Mr Speaker I move that the Assembly do now adjourn. Ms CARTER (Port Darwin): Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to make some comments about the hospice petition and the work behind the desire to get a hospice in Darwin. We saw this morning the presentation of a petition with 4911 signatures. This was a sterling effort by the people who collected those signatures over the last few months. 7548
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