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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 673 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

form. We will support the first two paragraphs but believe that paragraph (3) is inappropriate as it is written, and I foreshadow an amendment.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell): Would you like to move that formally, please?

MRS CROSS: I move the following amendment:

Omit paragraph (3) and substitute:

(3) Calls on the Chief Minister and Minister for Women to write to the Prime Minister to request the reasons why Australia is yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as soon as is practicable.

In the circumstances I have outlined, this approach would make more sense.

This side of the house is strongly committed to providing equal opportunity in all walks of life for all our residents. I believe the ACT has some of the best discrimination laws in Australia and an effective Discrimination Commissioner. As one would expect, some areas of discrimination are more difficult to eliminate than others. Discrimination against women is one such example.

Modern-day society is still coming to terms with some of the subtlety of discrimination against women. Again this is not surprising, given that we have had to confront not just decades or centuries of behaviour but millenniums of attitudes and practices that are unacceptable.

The Liberal party has long been committed to this cause and remains so. By not demanding immediate ratification of the optional protocol by our federal colleagues it does not indicate we have lessened our commitment to the rights of women. On the contrary, it burns brighter than ever. It does indicate, however, that we are prepared to let the federal government do its job on this matter in the manner and timing of its choosing.

MS TUCKER (5.04): I will speak to the motion and to the amendment proposed by Mrs Cross. Speakers have very clearly outlined what CEDAW is. I will not go into the detail again. In summary, it is about improving appeal rights through an international body when it comes to issues of discrimination.

This is an important move. If we are of the view that international conventions are useful, then they have to have teeth and countries have to be held accountable when they sign on to these treaties or conventions.

I listened to Mrs Cross with interest. I wanted to understand what her concerns were. I will not be able to support the amendment she has moved. The federal government's reasons for not supporting CEDAW are, as Mrs Cross clearly articulated, to do with its position on committees and the work of the UN. That came out of them being embarrassed by findings of such committees on a number of issues to do with human rights. One of them was mandatory sentencing in the Northern Territory courts. We had several comprehensive debates on that matter in the last Assembly.

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