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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2729

(Question No. 91)


Mr Melham asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 1 May 1996:

(1) What items on human rights were placed on the agenda of the meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in (a) Adelaide on 2 November 1995 and (b) Darwin on 29 March 1996.

(2) Who placed each item referred to in part (1) on the agenda and what was the outcome.

(3) When will the next meeting of SCAG be held.


Mr Daryl Williams —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Human Rights Paper placed before the meeting of SCAG on 2-3 November 1995 referred to the following human rights issues:

   Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

   Commission on Human Rights;

   Optional protocol to the Torture Convention;

   Proposed optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;

   Draft protocols and proposed optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

   Complaints under international communications procedures and co-operative arrangements regarding these complaints;

   Reporting under international communication procedures;

   Joint Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission/Australian Law Reform Commission reference on children and the justice system;

   National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families;

   Disability anti-discrimination legislation;

   Racial hatred legislation;

   Amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984;

   Review of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission;

   Enforcement of human rights determinations;

   Reports by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner;

   State of the Nation report on people of non-English speaking background;

   Race Discrimination Commissioner's report on the provision of water and sanitation in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;

   SCAG working group on human rights;

   Human rights forum for non-Government organisations;

   Decade of human rights education.

The Human Rights Paper placed before the 28-29 March SCAG meeting referred to the above issues. Additionally, the following items were also listed:

   ILO Convention No. 169—Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (1989);

   Fourth World Conference on Women;

   Review of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Other human rights agenda items for the November and March SCAG meetings were:

   Legal working party on AIDS (November);

   Aboriginal customary law;

   Gender reassignment (November);

   Treaties and the response to the decision in Teoh (November).

(2) The Human Rights Paper is placed on the agenda by the Commonwealth. The general outcome of this Paper is to inform States and Territories about the activities of the Commonwealth in this area and discussion of these issues is ongoing. I am advised that at the November SCAG meeting, a specific outcome was unanimous agreement to establish a SCAG Working Party on Human Rights.

The legal working party on AIDS was placed on the agenda by the Commonwealth. I am advised that at the November SCAG meeting, Ministers noted the status report of the HIV/AIDS Implementation Working Group and agreed to consider the desirability of establishing HIV/AIDS Implementation Working Groups in jurisdictions which have not done so.

Aboriginal customary law was placed on the agenda by the Commonwealth. Discussion of this issue is ongoing. I am advised that at the November SCAG meeting, Ministers agreed to refer Recommendations 14, 15 and 16 of the Australian Law Reform Commission's report No. 31 The Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws to the Model Criminal Code Officers' Committee for consideration.

Gender reassignment was placed on the agenda by the Northern Territory. I am advised that at the November SCAG meeting Ministers agreed to consider the submissions from the Collective of Australian Gender Councils regarding amendments to equal opportunity laws to make it an offence to discriminate against a person on the ground of that person's assumed gender identification. On the question of whether each jurisdiction would be prepared to adopt a modified version of the Sexual Reassignment Act 1988 (SA), New South Wales agreed, South Australia noted it already had legislation in place, Tasmania did not agree and all other States and Territories agreed to consider. All Ministers agreed to refer the issue of procedures of gender reassignment to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council.

The issue of treaties and the response of the Teoh decision was placed on the agenda by the Commonwealth. I am advised that at the November SCAB meeting the following matters were noted: the oral report of the Commonwealth on the Administrative Decisions (Effect of Instruments) Bill 1995; that the Commonwealth did not consider it appropriate to include a savings clause in the proposed Bill to allow parallel State legislation; and that the Commonwealth would be prepared to amend the proposed legislation to exclude references to State decisions if all States supported such an amendment.

(3) The next meeting of SCAG will be held in Sydney on 11-12 July 1996.