Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3349 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
UN declaration and then use that as the basis to get them to take steps to observe human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people within their jurisdiction, regardless of race, sex, language, religion or any of the other factors referred to in the declaration. We have plenty of evidence that government without the rule of law as we know it will inevitably descend into corruption. We see it in nations even in our region. The declaration clearly spells out that the international community has not only a right but a duty to act where abuses in one of its member states have been identified.
Even though we have further steps to take within Australia, we also have steps to take very urgently and very importantly within our region. Mr Speaker, I welcome the sentiment of this motion that we should act in a more positive way in our region. I hope that we can do so through the agency of this motion and other measures taken in and around the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the UN declaration. I think we will be coming back to this subject tomorrow, which is the actual fiftieth anniversary, and I look forward to contributing to debate at that time as well on this important subject.
MS TUCKER (12.31): This is an important motion because it highlights the issue of human rights. As tomorrow will be the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is appropriate that we have this discussion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights acts as a blueprint for humanity. It is a very powerful tool. Over the last 50 years there have been triumphs and steady progress in acceptance of, and adherence to, the declaration's principles. In 1948 slavery was legally enforceable in many countries. Bonded labour was acceptable in India and Pakistan. In 1998 slavery has been abolished across the globe, and bonded labour is illegal and its incidence has been greatly reduced. In 1948 South Africa's apartheid forced black South Africans to carry a permit to travel in white areas. In 1994 black South Africans took part in an election that took the then recently released political prisoner, Nelson Mandela, to power in a landslide victory.
Closer to home, only in 1967 were Australia's indigenous people recognised as Australian citizens with an entitlement to vote. Thirty years later, in 1997, after a three-year investigation into the stolen children, the Australian Government recognised the need to make amends for actions of the past. They did this without any formal apology or offer of financial compensation, however. Australia has a responsibility to its own and, as a developed country, to the world in ensuring that human rights are upheld and violations are not tolerated. Australia has been no different to other developed nations in paying lip-service to the declaration, in this country's case not only to peoples of the world but to our own indigenous population.
I support Mr Wood's motion that Australia foster, promote and adequately resource the Declaration of Human Rights and issues surrounding it. The most effective way to do that is to look at why people are denied their human rights, how their rights are violated and what the basic underlying causes are. Poverty and war deny many millions of people food, shelter and access to education and work. Community Aid Abroad state that 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty, with many more extremely vulnerable. At the same time nations, Australia being no exception, continue to spend an obscene amount on defence, an amount that could feed those impoverished the world over.