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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 676 ..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

motherhood. All of us who are mothers know that no matter what we do we are mothers first. We should not resile from that, and there should not be international conventions that make us feel guilty about the fact that we are mothers first.

I want to draw attention to some of the criticisms of various nations by CEDAW. The committee of CEDAW, in one of its reports on Belarus, was particularly scathing because too much emphasis had been placed on the symbols of motherhood and providing mothers awards. They thought this underscored the traditional roles of women and failed to break down sex role stereotypes.

Its ironic that while we are trying to alleviate poverty, which is the greatest form of discrimination against women, we find that in February 1999, when Colombia was trying to bring itself back on deck after a disastrous earthquake, prolonged internal wars and drug trafficking that broke down the entire social structure of the country, the CEDAW committee spent a lot of time complaining that the National Office of Women in that country had only a million pesos in its budget. It did not draw attention to the fact that the entire country was on its knees as a result of natural disasters and civil wars.

Unfortunately, I find that the officials and the committees of CEDAW tend to visit First World mores on developing countries and expect that all the changes we have achieved in the First World will be achieved immediately in the Third World and emerging nations. I think this is an unfortunate emphasis. Because of this, we must support Mrs Cross' amendment to paragraph (3) of Ms Dundas' motion and allow the federal government to address the outstanding issues about the appropriateness of some of CEDAW's actions before we demand full compliance with the optional protocol.

MS DUNDAS (5.18): I would like to make it quite clear that at this stage I am speaking only to the amendment moved by Mrs Cross. I thank Mrs Cross for her implied support for my motion. It is important that we recognise that issues such as being free from discrimination and protecting human rights are bigger and more important than party politics. I take heart from some of the comments made in this chamber. However, I cannot support Mrs Cross' amendment.

The federal government has made it quite clear repeatedly why they do not support the optional protocol and why they have not ratified the optional protocol. It appears that they are purely political reasons on an international stage. The result is that it devalues the women of Australia.

We do not need to know why, Mrs Cross. We must demand action. That is the point I am trying to make about the amendment. My motion as it stands calls for action. It calls for taking a very important step as a country and ratifying this protocol.

We know why Australia does not support the optional protocol. We have heard the reason repeatedly. I remember quite clearly the press conference when Mr Howard stood up with Mr Downer and clearly articulated that they were refusing to support women's rights because of some concerns with the political process going on in the UN. To me, it was a purely political reaction. They did not try to reform the UN assemblies. They have not tried to work for the rights of women. While I take heart from some of the comments that have been made in this chamber today by Mrs Cross, I cannot support the amendment.

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