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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008-2009 Week 1 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 183..


MS BRESNAN (continuing):

rights ultimately depends on engrained habits and attitudes having more to do with duty than entitlement. While Bill's bill may have been impractical in operation, it did at least engender debate on the issue of how society goes about trying to ensure that a respect for the rights of others is held and practised by as many people as possible. Tolerance and respect are far more powerful than mere legislative prescriptions. Aldus Huxley warned us that "mere paper restrictions designed to curb the abuse of power already concentrated in a few hands are but the mitigations of an existing evil". Prevention, he said, is always better than cure.

To this end, the Greens have consistently argued that more needs to be done to educate people about the importance of human rights and to engage the broader community in the debate over human rights issues and legislation and public policy. The current Labor-Greens agreement contains provision that will ensure that the normative and educative effects of human rights compliance statements will begin to foster a deeper acceptance of human rights, both in the ACT public service and the broader community.

I urge members of this Assembly to support the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in their efforts to focus attention on the UN charter and the principles by which this world's nations ostensibly agree to be bound. As they say, it is time to undertake a universal periodic review of all UN member states, of how they live up to their commitments, not only in the human rights field but under the United Nations Charter as a whole. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. But vigilance without wisdom and action is futile.

I am happy that today we pay tribute to those who have not only seen the threats to our freedoms but have also selflessly given their time, effort, money and emotional commitment to further the cause of human rights. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (11.55): I am very pleased to speak to this motion today and to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am grateful to Ms Bresnan for proposing it.

Six decades ago, Australia was one of a handful of countries given the task of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—or, at least, what is now known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, on the 60th anniversary of the signing of that declaration, our commonwealth government has set in train an inquiry that I hope will result in a national bill of rights for Australia.

There are, as we know, some who doubt the value or virtue of bills of rights or documents such as the universal declaration. Indeed, there are some even in this chamber who doubt it. They are entitled to that view and to the freedom to express it freely and openly. They can do so because the rights enshrined in the declaration, and subsequently enshrined in laws, charters and constitutions across the world, explicitly champion the rights of freedom of speech, of belief and of expression. The very charter that the critics deem worthless is the source of their freedom to question its value.


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