Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (18 August) . . Page.. 3883..
MR STEFANIAK (4.51), in reply: First, I will refer to a number of points the Chief Minister raised and then I will get to some general issues. He said it was unnecessary and confusing. I hardly think that is the case. When a country like Australia or a state like the ACT-the first state to have a Human Rights Act-goes down the path of a Human Rights Act, it is absolutely essential that we have something like this as well. It has never stopped the Labor Party, the Greens, or the Democrats from introducing social experimentation or something new that no-one else has ever tried if it suits them. It should be no excuse for them to say that this was just a draft declaration of responsibilities and a lot of countries did not want to go ahead with it and it was not implemented. That is hypocrisy in the absolute extreme. They will always be the first standard bearers to put something in if it suits them. I find it quite incongruous that they now say that no-one else has done this, it is not in at the UN, it is only a draft, therefore we should not do it.
Saying that the Australian government is not going to go ahead with this is also quite ridiculous. It is a crazy argument. Of course the Australian government is not going to go ahead with this. At least the Australian government has the commonsense, along with the Federal Labor Party, Bob Carr, Peter Beattie, and a few other Labor leaders around the country, to see that we do not need a Human Rights Act. If you do not have a Human Rights Act, you do not need to go down this path.
This is about balance. It is about fairness. It is a question of balancing rights and responsibilities. If we have to have a Human Rights Act-and we have one in place now, and it has been operating since 1 July-we need responsibilities as well. We need something to counter any excesses in rights. A lot of people, a lot of former leaders in the United Nations, saw that. So even if they have not implemented it-and it takes a long time to get things implemented in the UN anyway-that surely is no reason.
The Chief Minister is concerned about this overriding the Human Rights Act. Well, Chief Minister, if you are concerned about that, you could amend it. I would not mind. If you want it to be compatible with the act, so both work together and neither overrides the other, go for it. Take out that clause. No. The Chief Minister talks about selfish individuals and society and how a bill of rights will not operate properly if everyone gets terribly selfish. He misses the point. Society is not going to fall apart. The trouble with a bill of rights in a place like Australia-and a number of practitioners have spoken to me about this recently-is that it engenders a culture of selfishness, a culture of me. As a result of our Human Rights Act, a fair amount of litigation over some rather strange issues is expected to clog up our court system.
A society that is not ideal, a society that is selfish and does not care for others and often victimises others, will not be stopped with a Human Rights Act. The Soviet Union had one of the best constitutions in the world in 1937, and Stalin was busily bumping off and sending to the gulags 90 per cent of everyone over the rank of colonel in the Red Army. France, Germany and Belgium have Human Rights Acts. Earlier I mentioned, and Ms MacDonald will remember speaking too, about some very nasty acts and an increase in anti-Semitism in those countries.
Recently in France or Belgium some woman was viciously assaulted. She was wearing a Star of David or something and some louts on a train gave her a really hard time and,