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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (2 March) . . Page.. 535..


MS DUNDAS (continuing):

an adequate standard of living, the right to take part in cultural life, the right to education, the right to work and the right to self-determination. We can all agree that these are fundamental principles and should be included in the Human Rights Bill.

MS TUCKER (8.25): I did speak at length in the in-principle debate to the Greens' thoughts on the value of having the economic, social and cultural rights included in this, so I won't speak again to them. I will just say that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 includes both the civil and political rights and the economic, social and cultural rights. Other international statements have noted the indivisibility of the two sets of rights. More than that, these rights get at fundamental aspects of everyday life, which is of great importance, particularly for people who are excluded. I support the amendment.

MR STEFANIAK (8.25): The opposition will be opposing Ms Dundas's amendments. Firstly, we think that these amendments would be financially disastrous for the Australian Capital Territory; they would probably bankrupt us within three years, instead of 10 years if we just keep this bill as it is-and some of the other policies of the government.

Ms Dundas, even countries that have bills of rights do not have in them economic, social and cultural rights-especially economic rights-such as those you are seeking to put in. The United Kingdom recently introduced its Human Rights Act-which came into effect in 2000-upon which a lot of this bill is based. That country strenuously avoided the problems other democratic countries had with bills of rights by putting in all the necessary checks and balances to ensure the legitimacy of parliament and to avoid the bad consequences of having economic rights in the bill of rights.

Even the United Kingdom are now finding some of the judges going off on a few tangents that the parliament did not expect, even in terms of that watered-down Human Rights Act. Even they are starting to see problems. But having gone down the path- unnecessarily in my view-of the Human Rights Act, at least they did not have economic, cultural and social rights. Spain avoided that mistake as well, Ms Dundas, and there are also other countries that do not have these rights. It would be open slather if these rights were in this bill.

The consultative committee recommended some economic, social and cultural rights in its report, including the right to the highest quality health care. We are having enough trouble with our health system at present without having a completely unrealistic and unobtainable economic, social and cultural right put in. That would mean that everyone would have to have brilliant and immediate surgery. I do not think the territory budget could possibly afford that. Even if we did not spend money on anything else, we would be unable to afford that.

We have huge problems with this bill as it is, but if these rights were brought in, we would bankrupt the territory in two to three years. It is completely unrealistic. It is pie in the sky stuff. Thank God for small mercies that the government is not proposing to go down this path-although, rather ominously, there will be reviews of this act and the Chief Minister has flagged that he might look at these issues in the near future. God help the territory if that happens; it is something we clearly do not need.


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