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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3450 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

After hundreds of years of struggle against oppression, indigenous people's rights are slowly being acknowledged. Last year Assembly members were very moved by the stories from ACT indigenous people who were part of the stolen generation. We have been more than moved; we are taking action. This acknowledgment and subsequent action have been, and will continue to be, guided by the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, adopted as early as 1969.

When the Universal Declaration was adopted 50 years ago, it had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on debate at the international level as well as the national and local levels. In this Assembly, as in some other parliaments, the declaration is still cited in the enactment of new legislation. Now, as then, the United Nations is critical in providing an environment for debate, negotiation and study. It has been most effective in incorporating human rights into national law, in giving voice to non-governmental organisations and in elevating universal awareness about human rights.

Mr Speaker, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more than a piece of paper or a wish list; it is a fundamental instrument of what it means to be human.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (12.02): Mr Speaker, first of all I want to apologise to Mr Wood for not being present yesterday to support his motion which was passed by the Assembly. I rise to support the Chief Minister in relation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 50 years ago. I think much progress has been made in recent years in relation to that, Mr Speaker, and I will come back to that shortly. Historically, Australia has been at the forefront since the United Nations was formed, and we were one of the original member states in terms of our support for human rights. In some areas where we might have been a bit tardy in our own backyard, as the Chief Minister indicated in her speech, we are largely making amends. In terms of the world, Australia, per head of population, probably has contributed more than other countries.

In terms of human rights over the last 50 or so years, I would like to congratulate and commend the work of Amnesty International, an organisation that has been around now for many decades. Despite the incredibly oppressive nature of a number of regimes, it manages to look after some of the rudimentary rights of some political prisoners. In some quite atrocious regimes which have absolutely no compunction about bumping people off, some political prisoners, through the amazing efforts of Amnesty International, at least have been kept alive. In many instances their freedom has been achieved as a result of Amnesty International.

The third part of Mr Wood's motion yesterday was important because it specifically referred to us supporting human rights in practical terms. We have done so since the United Nations started through our commitments to its peacekeeping efforts and peacemaking efforts. In relation to that, I must disagree with the statement I think Ms Tucker made in the debate yesterday. She was outraged at how much Australia spent on defence. I think there are many people in our community who might be outraged

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