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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2483


Senator COATES —I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Is it true that the position of the Human Rights Commission representative in Hobart has recently been abolished? If it is true, can the Minister outline the reasons for that? What will the staffing arrangements for the new Commission be after 10 December? Given that there is no anti-discrimination legislation in Tasmania, and that the Gray Government is not inclined to introduce such progressive legislation, what alternative will be provided for Tasmanians to have human rights matters investigated? Can the Minister outline what measures the Commonwealth will take to ensure that Tasmanians do not suffer discrimination or abuses of their human rights because of the lack of protective State legislation?


Senator GARETH EVANS —No, it is not true that the Human Rights Commission representative's position in Hobart has been abolished; nor will it be abolished, except in the technical sense that all the Public Service positions in the Human Rights Commission will be abolished when the sunset clause in the Human Rights Commission Act operates on 9 December, unless this Parliament gets its act together fast in the next few days and passes the legislation. The Government is committed to enacting the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill to replace the present Human Rights Commission. That will, of course, have similar functions to the existing body. The Government expects that the new Commission will have an office in Hobart. Arrangements are in hand for the present Human Rights Commission office to remain in situ until the new Commission has determined its staffing structure. I am not able to say at this stage exactly what staff the new Commission will allocate to its Hobart office. But so long as Senator Walters, Mr Gray and the rest of them are around, there will undoubtedly be plenty of business for it to attend to.

Senator Coates rightly pointed out that there is, regrettably, no anti-discrimination legislation in operation in Tasmania. But it is the case that, by reason of our legislation in this area, Tasmanians will enjoy the protections afforded by-and they need them all-the Racial Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, together with the United Nations declarations on the rights of the child, the mentally retarded and disabled persons, and the International Labour Organisation Convention on the Prevention of Discrimination in Employment and Occupation. All of those international protections, as well as the domestic racial and sex discrimination Acts, are, of course, within the jurisdiction of the old Human Rights Commission and the new Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. As a result, Tasmanians will continue to enjoy their protection.