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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3350 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The Commission on Human Rights is always looking at itself and being challenged. Discussion is continuing about how we address issues of human rights. There has been ample criticism about the lack of emphasis at the commission on economic, social and cultural rights, although there has always been a very strong focus on civil and political rights. One of the critics of the commission is the chairman of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Mr Philip Alston, who said that the commission was not doing what it should regarding these rights, as they continue to be considered under one separate item on the agenda while civil and political rights are considered under every item. The debate in the most recent discussions there focused on foreign debt of developing countries, further concentration of wealth in industrialised countries, structural adjustment policies and the effects of globalisation and modernisation on all. Four resolutions were adopted, two of which were groundbreaking. One was on the appointment of two special rapporteurs, one on the effects of foreign debt and the measures taken by governments, the private sector and international institutions to alleviate the effects.

The other was on the right to education, whose mandate includes taking into account gender considerations, especially the needs of the girl child, and providing the Commission on the Status of Women with reports concerning the situation of women within the field of education. The discussion is being progressed. The issue of gender is particularly strong and important at the moment, and there have been special debates on gender. The commission has also made references to issues of gender in discussions on the development of an international criminal court. We need to keep in mind that this is an ongoing discussion. We certainly have not had the definitive statement.

There are many issues that highlight the need to address the structural inequity that causes injustice and poverty around the world. These issues cannot be resolved overnight, but Australia's role in the sweeping and inherently damaging process of economic globalisation and the role of transnational corporations and elites that profit from abdicating their responsibilities under international agreements and treaties should be carefully analysed, as should Australia's defence spending relational to its spending on welfare, education and aid. Australia, by starting at home with its indigenous population, can place itself in a stronger, proactive rather than reactive position in the international arena.

MR RUGENDYKE (12.37): I rise briefly to support this motion. It is a very timely motion, given the celebration tomorrow of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is timely to remind ourselves and the citizens of our city and the country how well off we are in this country in relation to the human rights of our citizens. We see many abuses of human rights in other countries. I think this motion sends a message through our Federal Government to other countries that it is not acceptable for them to treat their citizens in such a poor way as is evidenced in news reports we see regularly. We often overlook the fact that we are so well off in this country and we often take for granted our human rights, which are so well protected and so well looked after. I support the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 12.39 to 2.30 pm

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