Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3347 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Mr Speaker, on 22 September this year members of the Legislative Assembly signed the recommitment to the UDHR. You will remember that. Today in this Assembly we call on Australia to do the same and, with Australia, the world. The passage of this motion will give further impetus to this reaffirmation and I look forward to your support. The Assembly has expressed its beliefs and we have the right to request the Federal Government and Parliament to continue this campaign. Amnesty International says:
Fifty years on it should be a celebration but it's not. The 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty do not have access to their most basic rights.
And in the words of Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General:
Freedom knows no borders ... a fiery voice of liberty in one country can raise the spirits of another far away ...
The fact that millions of people - world leaders and citizens from every country and every walk of life - have recommitted themselves this year to the UDHR gives hope for the future for a world where human rights will be a universal reality.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.22): Mr Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Government to offer support for the motion which Mr Wood has moved in the house today and to echo the sentiments that he has expressed that tomorrow will be an essentially positive and forward-looking celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration provides that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; that they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood; that they are entitled to the rights and freedoms set out in the declaration without distinction of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Even after 50 years those words still are an appropriate touchstone not for just legislation and other acts of governments that deal with human rights but for all acts of governments and parliaments and of communities as a whole that affect the status of human beings.
Declaration signatories, when they signed the declaration, undertook "to strive ... to promote respect for the rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance". Those rights are expressed to belong to everybody. No distinction is made on the basis of the jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs. The declaration has been the basis for growing pressure on governments from citizens to uphold and enforce those rights. International opinion expressed through the United Nations in particular and other non-government organisations has added to the pressure for those rights to be recognised not merely in the form of words and rhetoric but in practice.
Mr Speaker, every positive right, for example the right to walk down a street unimpeded, implies an obligation on others, indeed on society - in other words, a negative right not to interfere with the exercise of that right. This obligation is the basis of civil liberties, which are expressed as freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of movement,