Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3453 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The international human rights record over the last 50 years has been bleak. Mr Stefaniak touched on those occasions when the developed world, the First World, has not been able to act with any united purpose to restrain and stop the most appalling abuses of human rights and the right to life. The terribly murderous regimes of Idi Amin and Pol Pot are the most dramatic examples.
The Pol Pot regime and the devastation which it created in Cambodia remain with me to some extent. There was appalling devastation in our region and the murder of up to two million people at a time when Australia had links with the developed world. With our links with the United States, with our intelligence, our knowledge, our foreign affairs networks and our so-called intelligence services, I have always had real trouble accepting that somewhere in Australia there was not detailed knowledge of what was going on in Cambodia in the 1970s. It has always caused me significant heartache that the Western world must have known what was happening, just as we know around the world what is happening now in Bosnia, and we remain as powerless to stop these appalling abuses of human rights.
There is much to celebrate but I think it is sobering to reflect on the distance to travel. I am concerned that in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary we do not applaud too loudly our human rights performance, either internationally or locally. I note what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson, said in relation to this fiftieth anniversary, and it is truly sobering. In her comment on this anniversary she said:
I do not see this fiftieth anniversary as an occasion for celebration.
I am prepared to celebrate the declaration, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is not. Ms Robinson went on:
Count up the results of 50 years of human rights mechanisms, 30 years of multi-billion-dollar development programs and endless high-level rhetoric and the general impact is quite underwhelming ... There is a failure of implementation on a scale which shames us all.
Whilst I think the declaration and the extent to which nations around the world have, through their own mechanisms, implemented it is a thing to celebrate, there are, as Ms Robinson says, issues in relation to human rights abuses, internationally and nationally, that do shame us all.
MS TUCKER (12.16): The Declaration of Human Rights is indeed a powerful tool. It has been described as the Magna Carta for all humanity. This fiftieth year should form a landmark celebration outlining the many advances that have been made. Unfortunately we too often hear of human rights abuses and violations, rather than progress that has been made. It saddens me to see the volume of human rights violations and suffering that are a direct result of poverty and war. Poverty is something that touches Australia, and even though it is not recognised by governments it is not just economic. It is social, spiritual and environmental.