Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3451 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
at how little we spend. It has come down from 3 per cent of GDP in the mid-1980s to about 1.9 per cent and there are serious concerns as to whether that is adequate as we approach the twenty-first century in a very uncertain world. It is at about the same level as in 1938 and we entered World War II very much unprepared.
I think it is important in terms of the United Nations to look at what actually does, effectively, at the end of the day, enforce basic human rights. The United Nations has a much better record than the League of Nations which did not have any states prepared to give the military backup to confront an aggressor, to confront a bully, and enforce basic human rights. The UN has a much better record. I think of Korea and the effort made in the Gulf War when Iraq invaded a member state of the United Nations, Kuwait. The effort in Bosnia perhaps has been tardy, but the threat of utilising UN forces for peacemaking - they are largely NATO forces - has been effective in stopping an aggressor from committing further atrocities against the people there. Individual countries too, by standing up to aggression, have also ensured basic human rights. In recent times events like the Falklands War come to mind.
Mr Speaker, it is important to recognise the need for democratic powers to have the means to protect themselves and to contribute to peacemaking. It is a fairly recent phenomenon. Only in the nineteenth century have liberal-minded regimes gone out and tried to enforce basic human rights. I think the first world policeman in the nineteenth century was the Royal Navy. Through their efforts the practices of slavery were very largely curtailed. They had a significant effect too in curtailing piracy.
I make those points, Mr Speaker, because when you look at the lessons of history there are always people and states in this world who are more aggressive, more totalitarian and basically a lot nastier. They do not have the same civilised conventions as more liberal-minded states such as Australia have. There is always a need, I think, for like-minded countries such as Australia. The world has benefited since World War II by the United States, Britain and countries like that maintaining a very strong deterrent to real and potential aggressors. The fact that people like Gorbachev were able to come to power in the Soviet Union would not have occurred if the West had been weak-kneed. That largely occurred simply because President Reagan in the United States and his colleague Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and Chancellor Kohl, too, in Germany, stood up to Soviet aggression. They stood up to abuses of human rights.
There is a real need for like-minded countries to band together to stop aggression and to stop people who would infringe upon fundamental human rights. We are never going to completely overcome that in our lifetime, sadly, but I think a number of steps have been taken which greatly assist a number of people around the world who otherwise would be very much deprived of their basic human rights.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (12.07): Mr Speaker, I am very pleased to join in this debate and to support the motion proposed by the Chief Minister. Today is a very significant day. I note that Amnesty International, the organisation which Mr Stefaniak referred to, in its recognition of this anniversary has titled its significant publication "50 Years - The Celebration and The Challenge". I think that is quite appropriate.