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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 25 October 2018) . . Page.. 4302 ..


MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.43): I thank Ms Cody for bringing forward this item today. As a Canberran, I am proud of the territory’s efforts to uphold all human rights, including, of course, the rights of children. Just yesterday in this chamber I referred to clause 11 of the ACT Human Rights Act, which stipulates:

Every child has the right to the protection needed by the child because of being a child, without distinction or discrimination of any kind.

Of course, children have lots of human rights listed in the act, including the right not to be discriminated against because of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, disability or other status.

I believe that, by and large, we work to the best of our abilities to uphold these rights for all the children in this territory. Even this week in the Assembly, we have seen actions on that. Ms Orr’s motion talked about legislation which will soon be developed so that gay children cannot be discriminated against by not being allowed to be admitted to some schools—and potentially adults, gay teachers.

That is not the only thing. Just this morning there was the tabling of the Royal Commission Criminal Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2018, which demonstrates the ongoing commitment of this Assembly—and in fact throughout Australia, because it is part of a bigger royal commission commitment—to do the right thing by children who have been affected by institutional sexual abuse.

As I said yesterday in the debate on Mrs Kikkert’s motion, and I repeat it today, efforts in this space and the apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse highlight the extent to which child sexual abuse has prevailed in this nation, but it does not include or focus on children who have been sexually abused in the home and it does not focus on abuses that are being perpetrated against children this very day in our name.

This leads me to that. As an Australian, I am ashamed of our treatment of the children and their asylum-seeking parents on Manus and Nauru. Their treatment by the Australian government and its counterparts in Papua New Guinea and Nauru is just wrong. What is being done to these children and their parents in our name is something I am acutely ashamed of. The fundamental question here is: do all children in fact have rights or just those in the ACT?

I appreciate that MPIs have to be written to focus on the ACT, and that is appropriate. But, morally, that actually is the question. And this particular question is particularly relevant to the ACT, because virtually all of the decisions that have led to the ill-treatment of children in Australian immigration detention have been made here in the ACT. So this is an ACT issue relating to children.

The irony of last week listening to an apology from our Prime Minister for the abuse of children in institutions while at the same time he and his colleagues are responsible for perpetuating the worst of worst abuses against children is absolutely sickening.


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