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Wednesday, 1 November 2000
Page: 21965

Dr Theophanous asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 5 September 2000:

(1) Given the condemnation Australia has received from various UN treaty bodies, how can he maintain in his “Meet the Press” media interview on 3 September 2000 that the Government adheres to Australia's treaty obligations.

(2) Is his recent announcement of Australia's position with regard to the UN Treaty bodies in contravention of Article 35 of the Convention which ensures Contracting States undertake to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Australia has an outstanding record on human rights issues. Treaty Committee interaction with Australia is hampered by their inadequate resources and the insufficient time devoted to extremely complex issues. Given the overlap and lack of coordination between the bodies, their opinions may also be contradictory. Adverse Treaty body opinion is advisory in nature and is not `proof' of government failure to adhere to UN obligations.

(2) No. Australia continues to operate closely with UNHCR in Australia and internationally in addressing the plight of refugees around the world.