Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 675 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
of the people of the ACT. This has been a campaign for a number of years by women's groups around Australia. It was a major issue in the Western Australian election before last, from memory. It stimulated a lot of attention and changing of votes. People in Perth saw it as fundamental to ask the major parties, other parties and Independents what their view on CEDAW was. It was seen as a fundamental issue for women and a fundamental and critical issue in progressing the fight to stop discrimination against women.
It is still a major issue in ways that are more subtle than many people understand. I have already alluded to that in talking about gender auditing of policy. I am very pleased to be able to support Ms Dundas' motion. I will not be able to support the amendment from Mrs Cross.
MRS DUNNE (5.11): I rise to support in part Ms Dundas' motion and to speak in support of Mrs Cross' amendment. There is no doubt that all of us here are keenly aware of the impact and the severity of the discrimination that has been wrought against women over the years on the basis of their gender. We are also aware of the substantial progress that has been made in this country and in this polity. It is fitting that in the run-up to International Women's Day we should be addressing these issues, which, as Ms Tucker said, are fundamental and critical.
In thinking about this last night and what stance I would take, I did take some time to consult some members of the community to see what their views were. They were mixed. None of those I consulted thought we should not be actively involved in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women wherever it occurs across the world. Some who had considerable expertise in working on UN committees had reservations about the effectiveness and the appropriateness of some of the work that is done by CEDAW through its committees and through the protocol allowing for complaints.
Last evening when I discussed this with a circle of women, concern was expressed to me that there needs to be considerable reform of the complaints mechanisms that are used by CEDAW before we sign up to it. At the same time these women were quite active and voluble in saying that they wanted to see the wider work of CEDAW continued and furthered.
Their principal concern was that the complaints mechanism of CEDAW essentially overrode the primacy, legitimacy and sovereignty of Australian law-makers. This is the reservation we must address. They also raised with me their experience that the CEDAW committee was sometimes inconsistent with its rules and procedures and in its reporting guidelines. There was evidence of political bias, inaccuracy in reporting and a variable quality in the people who sat on the committee. While these issues are still outstanding, I concur with the position of the federal Minister for Women's Affairs that we cannot reasonably sign up to something about which we have such reservations.
In consultation with women on this issue last night, I was struck by their commitment to serving women and eliminating elements of discrimination across the world. But the message that came home to me was that we need to see the convention used to press home the real issues that go to the root of real discrimination such as slavery, sex slavery, female genital mutilation and women being a chattel of their husbands or their fathers and there should be less emphasis than currently on undermining the institution of