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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1059


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(5.55) —I think the occasion should not pass without my stating for the record that the Human Rights Commission's recommendations were, in fact, the subject of fairly vigorous controversy within the Government last year, as is evident from some parts of the report, and both I, as the then Attorney-General, and the then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr West, took a view of the appropriate human rights standards to be applied to this case that was very much at odds with the view of the Human Rights Commission. I do not wish to go quite as far as Senator MacGibbon in saying that common sense was deserted on the occasion in question but I think it is probably fair to say that opinions may well differ on instances such as this as to how one appropriately weighs and balances the rights concerned. It seemed to me to be a considerable overinflation of the protections afforded under the declarations of the rights of the child for these considerations to outweigh the maintenance of the credibility and integrity of the immigration system. That was the view which did prevail. I suggest it is the view that, on second thoughts, will probably now prevail within the Human Rights Commission itself.

I rise to make the point that I believe, nonetheless, the Human Rights Commission's report is a useful contribution to what is a very tricky policy question. I think that the rather more moderate tone in which Senator Puplick addressed this issue is to be commended. It is a demonstration that, as always, views will often differ in this area, but what is important is that the different views be exposed and there be healthy debate about them, with nobody taking strong positions based simply on prejudice about either the iniquity of a body such as the Human Rights Commission or the inevitability of its coming up with the right conclusions. I think the truth, as so often with bodies of this kind, is half way in between. What is important is that we have the issues exposed and debated. That is, of course, one of the very points justifying the existence of the Human Rights Commission-to enable just that to occur.