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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4245..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

or poor, whatever your ethnic or national origin, political opinion or religious beliefs. I should also start by saying that this bill gives right and proper recognition to the special significance of human rights to the indigenous people of the territory, who were the first owners of this land.

Over 50 years ago, when the world was shocked by the horror of the holocaust and the devastation of the Second World War, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration is a statement of a common commitment to the fundamental values shared by all the peoples of the world. Australia played a significant role in the creation of the United Nations and the drafting of the declaration. That is a history that we can be proud of. We acceded to the declaration and played a significant role in the development of human rights treaties that followed.

In the post-war period, migration and the policy of multiculturalism brought diversity and greater tolerance. In the 1970s and 1980s equal pay for women, anti-discrimination laws and better income support reflected our egalitarian spirit and desire for a more inclusive society. It was not until the 1960s that indigenous people were given the vote in federal elections and not until the 1990s that native title was recognised, and inquiries into Aboriginal deaths in custody and the removal of indigenous children made us aware of the devastating impact of racism and ignorance on indigenous families.

Our ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980 was one of the numerous examples of Australia's commitment to the principles that underpin the United Nations Charter. The UN was built on the understanding that respect for human rights is necessary for peace and stability. That principle applies just as much at home as it does in the larger world.

Members, this isn't a party political issue. Australia's signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was one of the first acts of the Whitlam government in 1972. But it was the Liberal government of Malcolm Fraser in 1980 that ratified the treaty and made it binding on Australia.

Over 10 years ago the Federal Labor government recognised the competence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee to receive communications from Australians who believed their rights, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, had been breached. During the past 10 years there have been over 80 communications through the various United Nations procedures. The sky hasn't fallen in on us and Australia has remained a party to those procedures despite some criticism from the current federal government.

But our participation goes beyond signing human rights treaties. Eminent Australian and Challis Professor of International Law at Sydney University, Ivan Shearer, was elected to the UN Human Rights Committee in January 2001. This highly coveted position was previously held by another eminent Australian and former justice of the Family Court, the Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AO. Professor Philip Alston, formerly of the Australian National University, was chair of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee for many years.

Members, it is time to recognise that we are part of a system that promotes respect for and protection of fundamental human rights. We contributed to the development of these


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