Page 190 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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Those of us in this place who have been fortunate enough to be elected have a particular responsibility to stand up for the rights particularly of others. In light of the discussion in this place in the last 24 hours or so, I particularly wanted to reflect on that point, to invite all 17 of us to be constantly vigilant and to be constantly mindful of the need to protect the rights of all members of our society, no matter what context those rights come up in.

Personally, I am committed to remaining constantly vigilant. I invite all members of this Assembly to join me in doing so, to reach out beyond their own personal understandings, their own personal beliefs, their own personal experiences and their own personal values and to join me in undertaking that constant vigilance. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (12.22): I am happy to support this motion today. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a bold vision of a future in which people would enjoy freedom of speech and freedom from fear and want. It was written, as we know, as a response to the atrocities committed during World War II, but it is just as relevant today. It provides the people of the world with a path to follow. However, in itself it is insufficient.

The world has been transformed since this document was written, but its application is just as important today as it was in 1948. It was born out of a horrific period in the history of humankind. Unfortunately, in the intervening years not all people have followed the path that was so clearly mapped out for us.

As we have heard just before, Doc Evatt was a Labor man who was a champion of the act at the time, the universal declaration. Australia strongly supported the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Australian Dr Herbert Vere Evatt was a protagonist in its formulation. He was the then Minister for External Affairs in the Curtin and Chifley governments, and he was a Labor man who realised some of the party’s highest ideals. He proved to be a champion of the small countries at the conference and played a leading role in the Charter of the United Nations that was completed three months later, with provisions for protection of the poor, disadvantaged and oppressed. As these provisions were not originally envisaged by the powerful players involved in the charter, this was a great victory for the Labor movement.

Perhaps as a consequence of the leading role that he played in the charter, Doc Evatt was elected president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, a position he held when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed. He worked tirelessly on the declaration, and his efforts deserve the ongoing recognition of all people who believe in this remarkable document.

Freedom from want is an important facet of the document, and Doc Evatt was a man before his time in identifying poverty as an issue that had a real application to other problems such as global security. Dr Evatt made the following statement in 1945:

The nations must not fumble this second chance to create a system of international cooperation within which they can live together as friends. While security is the first task, it is not enough to plan for security alone; economic and

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