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- Start of Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Stone, Sharman, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
One Nation Party
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Kelly, De-Anne, MP, Fahey, John, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Cameron, Eoin, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
(Kelly, Jackie, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Crean, Simon, MP, Moore, John, MP)
(Nugent, Peter, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport
(Filing, Paul, MP, Zammit, Paul, MP)
(Billson, Bruce, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Goods and Services Tax
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Gambaro, Teresa, MP, Moylan, Judi, MP)
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Thomson, Andrew, MP)
(Forrest, John, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
Goods and Services Tax
(Ellis, Annette, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Taxation: Foreign Corporations
(Hawker, David, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- ONE NATION
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- STANDING AND SESSIONAL ORDERS
- HUMAN RIGHTS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1998
- REGIONAL FOREST AGREEMENTS BILL 1998
- TARIFF PROPOSALS
- CORPORATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 1997
- NATIONAL CAPITAL AUTHORITY
- ASSENT TO BILLS
- FAMILY LAW AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- REQUESTS FOR DETAILED INFORMATION: RESPONSE
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Indigenous Cultural Property
(Latham, Mark, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
Department of Veterans' Affairs: Funding and Grants for the Electoral Division of Oxley
(Hanson, Pauline, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
International Maritime Conventions: Australian Ratification
(Morris, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
- Indigenous Cultural Property
Tuesday, 30 June 1998
Mr TONY SMITH (6:01 PM) —Lest it be thought that I am a dark force—given what the member for Calwell (Dr Theophanous) said—it is always right to question anything. To question any direction that is being taken by government is a healthy thing; it is not necessarily a dark force. Those who see what happened in Queensland as being a result of the forces of evil or darkness are actually missing the point. They should be asking themselves what they have been doing in the last 15 to 20 years to muster that sort of opposition. It is really the large parties and the policies they have adopted that have brought about that opposition, not the Hanson factor. It is the anti large party phenomenon. People are sick to death of being preached to by people like some members of the House who are saying that there are sinister, dark forces at work. With respect, that is rubbish.
All the time we need to question the direction of state based organisations. It is important to do this. Let me give you two examples. If you keep saying that we need to keep funding this and we need to go on and so forth, without pointing to examples you are missing the downside of these sorts of things. By way of background, I spoke in the House on 22 September 1997 about some people in my electorate who had run a small business for 36 years. They had the misfortune to be taken to the anti-discrimination commission by a totally unmeritorious applicant. I do not intend to repeat the facts I outlined in my grievance debate speech, but the cost to those people almost broke their business in two. They were decent, honourable people who were terrorised by the anti-discrimination commission. Ultimately, it had a fairly sad result. After I spoke in this place they eventu ally settled the case, not because they felt this person had merits but because they were advised, having spent $20,000 to defend their situation and the applicant having spent nothing because the state was funding him, to pay him something to get the whole thing off their backs. It becomes a question of blackmail in so many cases. If instruments of the state are used to effect that sort of result, we have to question what those instruments are doing.
I was involved in another case. I acted for a chap who was charged with attempted rape some years ago. The case went to trial and in the course of defending himself this man lost his home and his family. He also lost his job because it was a workplace situation. But he defended himself successfully. He was found not guilty and acquitted. He gave evidence in his own trial and the jury were not convinced that the charge was proven beyond reasonable doubt. After that had finished he phoned me up and said that he had been advised that the prosecutrix in the case, the complainant, spoke to some of his friends at work and said that he got off because he lied to the jury. As a result of that, I suggested he take further legal action in the case. So he sued the complainant for defamation and for malicious prosecution. We took that to trial. He had no money so the solicitors and I undertook it on a speculative basis.
That was before a civil jury. The case did not go just a couple of days. When we got to court we found that the defendant was funded ex gratia by the state Attorney-General. My solicitor and I were almost exhausted. We were tied up in a case for three weeks with no legal fees coming in. The whole thing was litigated again and the civil jury found that, on the balance of probabilities, not only did he not attempt to rape the woman but also she had defamed him. The court awarded a sum of damages.
If I thought the case was over then, I was wrong because the next move that she made was to take him to the discrimination tribunal along with the employer. After all of that, some months later he rang me again and said, `She's at it again. She's after more money.' Having gone through the committal proceed ings, the criminal trial and the civil trial and even having taken it to an appeal initially—but that was dropped when the matter was finally settled—this woman got legal aid to go to the discrimination tribunal to have another shot. If you think that you sit around the table at the discrimination tribunal and you have nice negotiations, think again because what happens there is simply quite stark. The people who staff those tribunals become in a sense—as Gary Johns, the former minister, said—judge and advocate in the cases.
They put it quite simply: `You can settle the case now or it will go for two weeks.' As I said to the person concerned, `We will be here for two weeks,'—because there is no way that this man is going to give her one red cent. But the former employer could not afford it—it was running an old people's home for charity—and, instead of being caught for two weeks in the discrimination tribunal with the resultant fees of probably in excess of $20,000, it paid her some money to get it out of that way. A totally unmeritorious complainant who had been though all those proceedings managed to extort some money yet again in another case. When the state, through its instrumentalities, is effecting that sort of result there is something wrong.
I am a passionate advocate for the court system. There is no substitute for the court system because that is the only way you can get to the truth: you can have your trial, you can have the evidence in chief, the cross-examination, and the proper judicial process with a jury of 12 commonsense people, or four people in the case of a civil jury. But the so-called human rights area can effect an awful lot of human wrongs, and here are two cases where the someone had to pay up for the wrong reasons. If that is a system that the government is now attempting to look at and restructure, I say that is good, but it has not gone far enough. Mr Johns wrote in his article in the Australian on 31 July 1997:
There is also some doubt over the use being made of the commission. For example, it has been reported that since the Racial Discrimination Act—administered by the commission—was passed 20 years ago, only 20 cases that have gone to public hearing have been upheld.
Only 20 cases he refers to. He is talking about a report, so I do not know how accurate this is, but I do not think it has ever been challenged. You have to question where we are going if those are the figures, that we are spending an awful lot of money to effect that sort of result in 20 years. You really have to question that.
This is one of the problems that the government parties have. They have snuggled up too close with the human rights industry. They have not been game to make themselves different from that side, so they have made some changes, they have tinkered at the edges, but they have not really created the cleavage that is necessary between the two sides of politics.
That is what the people of Queensland have been saying in that state election. They are not saying that they have embraced Hansonism with a fervour. They are not saying that they have embraced the mad loony right. They are fed up with the lack of any identifiable group of policies that distinguishes the conservative side of politics from the Labor side of politics. We are all huddled together in this group with a few cliques in the middle of it all. This is one area where, I would submit, the government has a chance to do something much more.
The problem goes further than that, and Dr Ron Brunton referred to this in his brilliant article Betraying the victims. . . which was his critique of the stolen generation report. I have never heard anybody say, `That's not correct.' I have not heard an analysis of Dr Brunton's report in which anyone has said, `Dr Brunton was completely wrong in his critique,' apart from Zita Antonios. She made some comments about it in a general sense—they were totally non-specific of course—but Ron Brunton said:
I believe there are sufficient grounds to justify treating Bringing Them Home as one of the most intellectually and morally irresponsible reports to be presented to an Australian government in recent years.
How many members of this parliament have read that critique? I guarantee there would not be more than a handful. It is a brilliant critique. It is not written by somebody who could ever be said to be a racist or some loony right person; this is a person who exposed the Hindmarsh Island fraud, who defended the so-called `dissident women', the Ngarrindjeri women. This is why Dr Brunton concluded his report by saying, about the members of the government, of which I was once part:
Too many members of the Howard government seem to have lost confidence in the moral authority of their own supposed philosophical principles of liberalism, and seem to accept that they have no right to occupy the moral high ground. They need to remember that Martin Luther King's stirring wish that his children would see a time when people `will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character' is a classic expression of the liberal ideal.
The member for Aston (Mr Nugent) made statements earlier on in relation to Sir Ronald Wilson. He was a good High Court judge but, with the greatest respect to Sir Ronald Wilson, he was an awful commissioner in these proceedings because he got down with the issue. Instead of staying above the issue, he got involved in the issue. There is an old saying: once you start getting involved with your client, you lose your judgment and your capacity for reason. You never get involved, if you are a lawyer, with your client's problems; you have got to be that distance removed. He was not.
Consequently, we come up with this extraordinary comment emanating from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission through that report. Listen to this extraordinary comment by Dr Brunton:
The current elasticity of genocide is brought home by the silliest statement in Bringing Them Home . This is the claim that "the continuation into the 1970s and 1980s of the practice of preferring non-Indigenous foster and adoptive families for Indigenous children was also arguably genocidal".
Dr Brunton rightly observes:
From such a perspective, virtually anything goes.
That is the problem. When you say everything is discrimination or everything is genocidal, you lose the meaning and you lose the ability to flush out the cases that need to be flushed out—the cases where there has been terrible discrimination or terrible treatment—because you are mixed up with these generalisations. It comes from the inexactitude of language that has crept into our society so much that now, instead of the analysis of the stolen generation report so-called, we are presented with something which Dr Brunton says—rightly, in my opinion—is a very questionable document, and yet it becomes the norm.
It is a bit like the human rights industry generally. There is the statement by the English socialist Hastie: `Racism increases in direct proportion to the number of highly paid bureaucrats you employ to find it.' We have a situation here where the government has been caught up in this environment. In 1990 the Attorney-General (Mr Williams) opposed the Convention on the Rights of the Child when he was in opposition, but now the government say, `No, we are prepared to content ourselves with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.' They have lost their moral, persuasive authority. They are not able to say, `That is not good enough. That is not what we as liberals'—with a small `l'—`believe in.' Consequently, we have the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for example, as one human rights document. It is a great document bar the three or four very nasty little clauses dealing with child autonomy which effectively can impinge upon the Australian family. We have seen examples of that already by virtue of the international committee trying to tell Australian families how they should bring up their children.
When we hear the member for Calwell saying these things about dark forces and when we hear people unable to articulate the distinctions that are necessary to be made between certain forms of conduct that are acceptable and certain forms of conduct that are not acceptable—lumping everything in and calling it genocide, for example, no matter what it is—we lose sight of the problems for individuals.
That is why we saw the awful situation involving Hindmarsh Island where the women who were honest—the decent women—were called the dissident women because they were saying, `This is a fraud, this is a fabrication.' They were called dissident by the ABC, by the media and by everybody else—except for Dr Brunton and a few others who said that this was a fraud. Ultimately, because it was pursued through the courts—properly, with cross-examination and all those things that the legal process contains—the problem was fixed up and we came to the real truth of the matter.
That is why I say that in this particular area we cannot rest on our laurels. We cannot afford to look at the new commission and say, `This will solve the problem. We will have all these nice conferences where people will sit very happily around the table.' Can you imagine sitting around a table with someone who spat in your face? That is what happened to an employee of one of my constituents. He was spat at by the individual who took them to the commission. Can you imagine sitting around a table with an individual like that? That is the notion that is implied in this commission idea—that we all sit around and resolve it in this cosy way. It does not work, and it has to be acknowledged that it does not work.
You cannot allow people to use the state systems to effect an instrument of terror on decent, law-abiding citizens, and that can happen. It is no good saying, `That wouldn't happen all that often.' If it happens in one case it has happened in one too many cases, because those people were nearly run out of business as a result of that matter. I say again: we need to be vigilant and ever careful. We have had a very lame response from anyone who wants to look at the issue in relation to the stolen generation. We have not had any intellectual debate about this. We have had a blanket acceptance because we are petrified of political correctness. We really need a debate to help the victims, who were victims in the case of the stolen generation, instead of getting caught up in the debate that ultimately turns people to the Hansonism that is going to fuel the political divide in this country for a long time to come.