As the community today enjoys the annual celebration of Canberra’s official founding in 1913, Independent Senate candidate David Pocock has committed to fighting for greater Territory rights in his quest to win an ACT Senate seat at the upcoming federal election.
The community-endorsed candidate said consultations with Canberrans had revealed a deep, and in many cases very personal, frustration at the lesser democratic rights afforded to them.
He pledged to support legislation that would restore the ACT Government’s right to make laws for its own citizens without interference from the Commonwealth and champion reforms that ensure Territorians’ have the same democratic rights and value attached to their vote in referendums as their state counterparts.
“Canberrans have been treated as second class citizens for too long. We want the same rights and representation as other Australians,” David said.
“This issue has stalled for years, and I’ve heard time and again over the past months that Canberrans want their elected representatives to address this.
“Since we achieved self-governance in the late 1980s, Canberrans have had fewer rights to make decisions about our own lives and futures than people in any of the six states.
“The Commonwealth has absolute power over the Territory, meaning it can overrule laws passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly; that needs to change. We should have the same rights as the states to determine our own future.
“There is no reason for this to continue. But in 2018 and again in 2021, Senator Seselja argued against legislation that would have begun to restore Territory rights.
“The job of elected representatives is to advocate in support of the wishes of their community, not make decisions based on personal preference.”
In 2022, all Australian states will have either passed legislation relating to voluntary assisted dying or have a Bill before their parliament.
“Territory rights have almost become synonymous with voluntary assisted dying, but it is important to remember these two things are separate,” David said.
“There are divergent and tightly held beliefs on the question of voluntary assisted dying. My argument is that whatever your views may be regarding specific pieces of legislation, Territorians should have the right to debate them on their merits and decide for ourselves.
“We should enjoy the same level of democratic rights as every other Australian, and that’s what I want to ensure.”
David also pointed to the ACT’s under-representation in Federal Parliament.
“Tasmania has 12 Senators while we only have two when our population is higher and growing,” David said.
“With only two Senators representing us, we need both standing up for Canberra, and that’s what I intend to do every day on the job.
“People in the ACT deserve to have their vote weighted in full at national referendums, not half that of someone living in a state as is currently the case. We can begin to remedy these things and ensure we make Canberra count.”