Standing up for Canberra

Private Members Bill: Territory Rights

I want to take this opportunity to thank my two Territorian friends - the Member for Fenner, who's on the other side of the lake from my electorate, and the Member for Solomon - for bringing forward this private member's bill on territory rights, a topic that I can't believe that we're still debating in 2018.

I've got to be frank: I can't believe that we are still debating this. We're still fighting for Territorians to have the same rights as those in the states and to have the equality that the states enjoy in the way they are governed and represented and the way that their voice is heard. In 2018, we're having this debate about equality and enfranchisement of the people of the Territories.

How would you feel, Deputy Speaker, if your state or your community did not have the opportunity through the state government to legislate on whatever it wanted? How would you feel about that? You would feel angry and resent the fact that your community does not enjoy the rights of someone over the border.

My community does not have the same rights as that of the member for Eden-Monaro, 20 kilometres away. You have complete equality for those 20 kilometres away from where we are now. Yet here in the territory my community does not enjoy equality in the way it can govern and the way that the people are represented.

It wasn't until 1966 that federal representatives in Canberra were given full voting rights here in this parliament. Then, 23 years later, the first Legislative Assembly was elected, and Canberrans were finally given the power to decide the future for their own communities. In those early days of self-government, I worked for the first assembly elected and for the first ACT chief minister, Rosemary Follett, who was the first woman to lead an Australian state or territory government and was very proudly from Labor.

Canberra has been progressive since its inception. The whole idea of Canberra was created on the notion of democracy and equality. Yet here in this nation's capital, which physically and philosophically is designed to embody those notions of democracy and equality. Unfortunately, those democratic equal rights are denied to the people of Canberra because they live in a territory. Because of the constitutional baggage that this nation has inherited—as my colleague, the member for Lingiari said, the colonial powers that still exist and that deny territorians the same rights as those in the states.

It's not just our legislative rights, our ability to pass whatever legislation we want without the federal government intervening in our democratically elected Legislative Assembly.

It's also the fact that we are significantly underrepresented.

I know that some of my colleagues here are from Tasmania. It is usually a source of great contention in Canberra—this is meant with the greatest of love—that Tasmanians are incredibly well represented - and I will just keep it at that.

Compare Tasmania - 500,000 people - to the ACT - 415,000 people - and we have a unicameral assembly of 25 representatives.

We now have three representatives in the lower house and two representatives in the Senate. The representation in the Northern Territory is similar to that, in terms of numbers.

It's a great pleasure and honour to speak on this bill tonight.

It underscores the fact that we want equality here in the territory - and we want democracy here in the territory in 2018.