Australian ministers lose veto power over territory laws

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ministers in Australia's federal government have lost the power to veto laws in the nation's two mainland territories after legislation passed the national parliament. The legislation requires for both chambers of the parliament to strike down laws made in the Northern Territory (NT) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) parliaments.

Cquote1.svg We've never felt that overturning the laws of a democratically elected government at the swipe of a pen was a fair situation Cquote2.svg

—Katy Gallagher

Previously government ministers could veto laws unilaterally. "What that means is that it is no longer the case that the minister can step in with the stroke of a pen and dismiss territory laws as we've seen many instances before," Greens MP Adam Bandt said.

The legislation is the first piece of Australian Greens-proposed federal legislation to be signed into law. Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said "[this is a] very important milestone for democracy in the territories," he said.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher welcomed the law change, saying that while the ACT government would continue to call for a joint territory-federal review into the self-government legislation, there was no need for a delay to "sensible" veto law changes. "We've never felt that overturning the laws of a democratically elected government at the swipe of a pen was a fair situation."

The opposition attempted to change the legislation to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriages in the territories, but Government frontbencher Craig Emerson told parliament that federal marriage laws made the amendment unnecessary.


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