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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2884

Senator BUTTON —On 15 October-six weeks ago-Senator Sir John Carrick asked me a question without notice concerning the implications of international conventions on compulsory work for the dole schemes. I undertook to provide him with an answer as soon as possible. The Prime Minister has supplied an answer to the honourable senator's question. It comes from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet because the question was directed to me as Leader of the Government in the Senate. The answer is as follows: Australia is party to three international treaties which prohibit the use of compulsory labour and which impinge on the introduction of a compulsory work for the dole scheme in Australia. They are: International Labour Organisation Convention No. 29, Forced Labour, 1930; International Labour Organisation Convention No. 105, Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957; and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. These instruments specifically prohibit the use of labour which is exacted from persons under threat of penalty and for which these persons have not voluntarily offered themselves. A penalty need not be in the form of penal sanctions but might also take the form of a loss of certain rights or privileges. The introduction of a universal scheme which made receipt of unemployment benefits conditional upon performance of unpaid work may contravene one or more of these conventions. However, the question of whether a particular scheme would or would not contravene all the conventions taken together would depend upon the precise nature and conditions of the scheme.