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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 375


Senator SIEWERT (9:43 AM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

STOLEN GENERATIONS REPARATIONS TRIBUNAL BILL 2010

In February 2008 the Stolen Generations were given a formal national apology by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of the new Government.

A national apology was one of the key recommendations from the “Bringing them Home” Report and I welcomed the apology along with many other Australians. The Bringing Them Home Report also stated that “[t]he only appropriate response to victims of gross violations of human rights is one of reparation” and recommended that:

 “for the purposes of responding to the effects of forcible removals, ‘compensation’ be widely defined to mean ‘reparation’; that reparation be made in recognition of the history of gross violations of human rights; and that the van Boven principles guide the reparation measures. Reparation should consist of:

1. acknowledgment and apology,

2. guarantees against repetition,

3. measures of restitution,

4. measures of rehabilitation, and

5. monetary compensation.”

This bill seeks to implement this key recommendation from the Bringing Them Home Report by providing a mechanism to make reparations to the Stolen Generations.

Following the national apology, Senator Andrew Bartlett introduced the Stolen Generation Compensation Bill 2008. Former-Senator Bartlett is a tireless campaigner for social justice and strongly advocated for compensation for the Stolen Generations both inside and outside this Chamber.

I want to acknowledge the work of former-Senator Bartlett in bringing before this place a bill for compensation for the Stolen Generations. It was very disappointing in 2008 to hear the Rudd Government dismiss out of hand the issue of reparations and compensation when delivering the apology. Former-Senator Bartlett’s bill kept the issue of compensation before the parliament and the nation.

Following its introduction, Former-Senator Bartlett’s Stolen Generation Compensation Bill 2008 was referred to an Inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee which received submissions and heard evidence from around the country. The Inquiry canvassed many of the issues relevant to both compensation and broader reparations for the Stolen Generations.  There was strong support for a reparations scheme from the submissions and hearings.

One of the submissions to the Inquiry was a joint submission from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Australian Human Rights Centre (the PIAC/AHRC submission). The submission and evidence from PIAC/AHRC proposed a Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal.

PIAC first developed a proposal for a Reparations Tribunal in response to the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report and presented the proposal to the 2000 Senate Inquiry into the Federal Government’s implementation of the Report’s recommendations. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee recommended the establishment of a reparations tribunal modelled on the PIAC proposal.

Following the Inquiry, PIAC conducted significant consultations with Indigenous people and organisations across Australia, to further develop their proposal. This finalised proposal was submitted to the 2008 Senate Inquiry into Senator Bartlett’s bill. It is notable that Senator Bartlett in his Additional comments to the Senate Inquiry Report recommended that his Bill be modified by adopting the amendments proposed by PIAC/AHRC. It was a recommendation I agreed with and, on Wednesday 24th September 2008, I put before the parliament the Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill 2008 to put that recommendation into effect.

The Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill 2008 was neither substantively debated nor resolved during the term of the Forty-Second Parliament, and the bill I am introducing today - the Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill 2010 - is effectively a reintroduction of that Bill without any substantive changes being made to it.

The distinguishing feature of this bill (the Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal Bill 2010) in comparison to former-Senator Bartlett’s Stolen Generations Compensation Bill 2008 is its broader remit for reparations. We recognise that a sum of $20 000 is manifestly inadequate compensation for the Stolen Generations. This is why this bill, while keeping a limited ex gratia payment, also provides for the Tribunal to decide on appropriate reparations. Reparations can include funding for certain services and monetary compensation when particular harm is demonstrated. These reparations are unlimited and are to be determined by the Tribunal.

There is a focus in this bill on communal reparations, including measures such as funding for healing centres, community education projects, community genealogy projects, and funding for access to counselling services, health services, language and culture training.

The Bill establishes a Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal which is constituted according to the following Principles:

Acknowledging that forcible removal policies were racist and caused emotional, physical and cultural harm to the Stolen Generations;

Asserting that Indigenous children should not, as a matter of general policy, be separated from their families;

Recognising the distinct identity of the Stolen Generations and that they should have a say in shaping reparation; and

Ensuring that Indigenous persons affected by removal policies should be given information to facilitate their access to the Tribunal and other options for redress.

The key elements of the Stolen Generations Reparations Tribunal are:

Reparations should be guided by the van Boven principles and should be material, in-kind and non-material, and include but not be confined to monetary compensation;

The provisions of ex-gratia payments as a minimum lump sum payment to all Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families as a recognition of the fact of removal;

Acknowledging the intergenerational harm of the forcible removal policies, that reparations should be extended to include not only the individual removed, but also family members, communities and descendents of those removed; and

Claimants will only have to demonstrate the act of removal occurred under certain legislation or was carried out, directed or condoned by an Australian government.

The van Boven Principles are a set of principles developed by Theo van Boven in 1996 for the United Nations on the Right to Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The van Boven principles recognise the right of remedy for victims of gross violations of human rights. The Bringing Them Home Report cites the van Boven Principles and concludes that reparations for the Stolen Generations should be guided by these principles.

The Tribunal’s functions include:

Deciding on appropriate reparations,

Deciding on an appropriate amount of any ex gratia payment;

Providing a forum and process for truth and reconciliation by which Indigenous persons affected by forcible removal policies may tell their story, have their experience acknowledged and be offered an apology by the Tribunal or others;

Consider proposed legislation to report on whether it would be contrary to the Principles of this Act;

Inquire into prejudicial policies and practices by government or a church organisation brought to the Tribunal’s attention.

The Tribunal’s functions that relate to examining proposed legislation and inquiring into prejudicial polices and practices of government and church organisations are limited to legislation and policies and practices that are contrary to or inconsistent with the Principles mentioned above. The Tribunal’s functions are thereby limited to matters related to the Stolen Generations and the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

The Tribunal will be constituted by a Chair and 6 other members. At least half the members of the Tribunal must be Indigenous. The Chair of the Tribunal will be full-time position, while members may be appointed on a full-time or part-time basis.

The key elements and functions of the Tribunal provide for a more holistic approach to reparations for the Stolen Generations. As PIAC stated in its submission to the 2008 Senate Inquiry into Senator Bartlett’s bill:

 “It is critical that a mechanism, distinctly shaped by the needs of the Stolen Generations is put in place to service the dual objectives of redressing past harm and creating measures of reparation that offer enduring social, cultural and economic benefits to those affected.” 

In 2008, in response to the national apology I said:

 “Children growing up hearing the stories of officially sanctioned mistreatment of their parents, their mothers and their grandmothers in an environment in which these injustices are not acknowledged, or are even denied, can easily be led to despair - particularly when they are growing up in disadvantage, experiencing firsthand the impacts of social exclusion and living in a community with a high rate of unemployment and in which they face an uncertain future. This is why a full and unconditional apology from the government to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the parliament is important to not just the children who were removed but also their children and grandchildren. The health and wellbeing burden carried by Aboriginal Australia and Aboriginal communities is huge.”

I add to that statement that just reparations are equally essential to repair the enduring social, economic and cultural harm experienced by the Stolen Generations.

In the same way the national apology was long overdue, so is a reparation scheme. As Associate Professor Durbach from the AHRC told the 2008 Senate Inquiry, in reference to the recommendation of the 2000 Senate Report of a reparation scheme:

 “A failure to implement that commitment by way of establishing a Stolen Generations reparations tribunal ignores Australia’s obligations to repair the enduring social, cultural and economic damage particularly endemic to the stolen generations experience. In failing to honour that commitment, it also suspends and accordingly prolongs the critical healing of Stolen Generations communities and undermines any real prospect of effective reconciliation.”

The Government must act urgently to provide the Stolen Generations full reparations.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


FOOD SAFETY (TRANS FATS) BILL 2010

The Food Safety (Trans Fats) Bill 2010 aims to reduce the Australian public’s exposure to unsafe synthetic trans fatty acids, which are known to the public as ‘trans fats’.

Synthetic trans fatty acids are non-naturally occurring fats formed by the hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils to make them solidify. They are distinct from the naturally occurring trans fatty acids in some foods, such as meat and dairy products. Synthetic trans fats are added to certain foods to increase shelf life and improve texture. Fast foods, such as chips, chicken nuggets and pizzas, packaged snacks and bakery products such as biscuits, cakes, pies and doughnuts are most commonly affected.

Scientific evidence shows that synthetic trans fatty acids significantly increase blood cholesterol levels. They are more harmful than saturated fats, which increase ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), as they simultaneously decrease ‘good’ cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein). This significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease, which kills tens of thousands of Australians every year. A major study into the health effects of trans fats by Mozaffarian et al in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2006 found:

On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than any other macronutrient, conferring a substantially increased risk at low levels of consumption (1 to 3 percent of total energy intake). In a meta-analysis of four prospective cohort studies involving nearly 140,000 subjects, including updated analyses from the two largest studies, a 2 percent increase in energy intake from trans fatty acids was associated with a 23 percent increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease …

The former President of the Australian Medical Association has echoed this conclusion, noting in November 2006 that:

Trans fats appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than any other macronutrient. They may increase the risk of sudden death from a heart attack, and are associated with diabetes.

He went on to call for the immediate mandatory labelling of food containing trans fats while a complete ban is implemented. The AMA have since renewed this call in the context of recommending measures to reduce obesity in Australia.

Australians have good reason to be concerned about unregulated quantities of trans fats in our food. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that one in two Australian adults are overweight or obese. According to the Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of Australians, accounting for 34% of all deaths in this country in 2006 and killing one person in Australia nearly every 10 minutes.

A number of countries have responded to this public health risk by regulating the use of trans fats. In Denmark it has been illegal to sell oils and fats containing more than 2% trans fats since 2004. In the USA, nutrition labels must declare levels of trans fats that exceed 0.5 grams per serve. California’s restaurants are now prohibited from selling margarines, oils, and shortening that contain more than half a gram of trans fat per serving. Bakery products will soon be required to follow similar restrictions. New York’s Board of Health has already implemented a similar restriction.

Yet in Australia, trans fats remain almost entirely unregulated. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code provides that information on trans fats must be included on food labels only if ‘a nutrition claim is made in respect of cholesterol or saturated, trans, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids; or omega-3, omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acids’. If the manufacturer chooses not to make any such claims, they need not alert the consumer to the presence of trans fats.

The only other government-level response to the issue was the National Collaboration on Trans Fats established by the previous Federal Government. This body found that the average intake of trans fats by Australians and New Zealanders was below the 1% recommended by the World Health Organisation. Unfortunately, focusing on the average rate of consumption ignores the fact that consumption may be far higher in some individual cases. Respected Australian nutritionist, Dr Rosemary Stanton, has noted that ‘trans fats can be as high as 40 per cent in some fast foods.’ Clearly, people who eat a lot of these foods will be consuming well in excess of the average intake of trans fats.

To remedy this situation, the present Bill employs the corporations power to prohibit constitutional corporations from manufacturing, distributing, offering for sale, selling or otherwise trading in food containing synthetic trans fatty acids. It also prohibits persons from manufacturing, distributing, offering for sale, selling or otherwise trading in food containing synthetic trans fatty acids for, to or on behalf of constitutional corporations. Civil penalties apply.

Given the important public health issues at stake and the inadequate existing regulatory regime, it is important to safeguard the health of Australians until such time as the States and Territories decide to act. The bill expressly provides that State or Territory legislation may override the bill, leaving State and Territory governments with the option to choose to adopt a different regulatory response. In the interim, this bill will ensure the health of Australians is not harmed by trans fats.


Senator SIEWERT —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.