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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 669 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

In specifically refusing to sign on to the optional protocol to CEDAW, the Liberal federal government has sent the signal that women's rights are not in fact human rights and that women do not deserve the same level of redress as do other groups that suffer discrimination and persecution. I do not believe that such a view is one that the majority of Australians would agree with, and I believe it is a view this Assembly should actively seek to counteract.

When the federal government published its intention not to ratify the optional protocol, it also signalled its intention to distance itself from the United Nations human rights committee structure pending a review by a joint committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General's Department. The report of that committee was tabled in the middle of last year. Recommendation 19 of that report says:

Given Australia's laudable record of support for UN human rights treaties, a majority of the committee recommends that the Australian Government proceed with the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

So I would urge the Assembly to support Ms Dundas' motion. The Chief Minister should urge the federal government to comply with the findings of the committee set up to review this country's involvement in the United Nations human rights process and should ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW as soon as practicable.

I would like to reiterate the right of every woman to be free from discrimination on the basis of gender. In keeping with this, I would like to draw attention of the Assembly to the fact that International Women's Day will fall on this Friday, 8 March. We should not be kidding ourselves that women in this country have achieved equality in the workplace, the community or politics. International Women's Day provides an opportunity for us to celebrate how far women have come in the last 100 years but also to look at what still needs to be done. Australia needs to repair its international human rights reputation, and this Assembly should support Ms Dundas' motion and urge the federal government to take the first step and ratify the optional protocol to CEDAW.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.50): As Ms Gallagher has just indicated, the government supports the motion that has been put to the Assembly today.

Ms Dundas' motion should be supported not only by this Assembly and this government but by all Australians. In signing the convention in 1980 and ratifying it in 1983, Australia committed itself to being a society that promotes policies, laws, organisations, structures and attitudes that ensure that women are given the same rights as men. Australia is being left behind in supporting the optional protocol, simply because the current Commonwealth government refuses to acknowledge that we have a role to play in ensuring the rights of women around the world.

If Australia were to become a signatory to the optional protocol, Australian women would have access to an international complaints mechanism on human rights issues. Ms Dundas quite rightly pointed to the significance of such instruments in some circumstances. She pointed to the complaint that was lodged by certain gay people in

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