Page 212 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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Mr Hanson: What was the BRC?

MR HARGREAVES: To answer the interjection, the BRC was created in 1975, the same year that Katingal prison, on which it was based, closed. It, too, was an inhuman facility, and that is why this facility, the AMC, is being built. It is a simple fact though, as Mr Hanson knows, because he has been there, that the AMC is clearly being built—it has been built; it is now being commissioned—as a human rights compatible facility. That applies to the colour of doors, to the ability to see hills and to have fresh air—the ability to be incarcerated in an institution that has no bars in it so that you are not treated like an animal in a cage. There is no razor wire, which is another expression of being sent to jail for punishment, instead of as punishment. We believe in human rights and the dignity of the human being and that the deprivation of liberty is, in fact, the punishment. People do not go to jail for punishment.

We also believe in the dignity and the respect which are the due of people with a disability. There is an enormous amount of activity that pays respect to people with a disability. I remind members, at least those of us who are old enough to remember, which means 16 of us, at least, of the days when people with Down syndrome were looked upon as monsters. Those days, thankfully, have gone. I ask members to reflect whether they have the same attitude to people with cerebral palsy in wheelchairs. I suspect there are people in our community that do not.

Previous governments have not paid due respect to people. For example, the best way to build esteem and to build people up is to pay them for something that they have done. Talk is cheap. You can say, “Good on you. You are doing it hard, and we respect you.” That does not change their esteem one jot. But if you say to someone who is sitting in a wheelchair, “Thanks for doing that job; here is a couple of quid for doing it,” then their personal esteem goes through the roof and they feel good about themselves.

People with a disability have a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to move freely and equally within our society. Gone are the old days of EEO—equal employment opportunity—which actually did nothing more than single out people as disadvantaged: women, disabled people and ATSI people. We have come a long way, but we have not finished yet.

It is important when we talk about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that we look at our inner soul, that we look at ourselves, inside our own eyeballs, and say to ourselves, “Why do I get upset from time to time? It is because I am not treated with the respect and the dignity that I expect.” We should do that for others. That is why we should be celebrating this charter and that is why every government in this country should have, as its starting point, this declaration. I am absolutely proud to be a member of the first government in Australia that talked about and did enact a Human Rights Act.

I see in the press today that discussion is going on on the national stage. Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit, has been asked to oversee, as it were, this process and to talk about whether we need a human rights act and whether we need a charter. That conversation is long overdue. It is really interesting that it is taking place now after the commitment of Jon Stanhope and the Labor government to actually introduce it.

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