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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2766


Senator SHEIL(12.35) —I welcome the removal of the Australian Bill of Rights Bill from the Notice Paper. Despite the lyrical descriptions given by other senators that they were attending the funeral of the Bill of Rights and that they wanted to be pall-bearers, grave-diggers or executioners, I remind them that the Bill of Rights is not yet dead. It has been sent to the Australian Constitutional Commission for consideration.


Senator Georges —It is dead.


Senator SHEIL —No, it will come back. It will raise its hoary head here again and we will be called upon to gird our loins and fight it again.

I turn my attention to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill 1985 and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 1985. The real question raised by these Bills is why Australia needs this quasi-legal Commission to administer sections of civil law. If the Government wishes to legislate to prevent so-called racial discrimination or sex discrimination, ordinarily one would expect it to do so and then leave the legislation for the courts to interpret, as is the case with all of our other laws. Clearly, the reason why the legal practices and traditions of our Commonwealth are being dispensed with is central to the real purpose of the new Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The only reason that this Government could want to continue to extend the farce that is the Human Rights Commission-the existing Human Rights Commission-with this legislation, is that it deliberately wants to circumvent the basis of common law and our legal system. I see this happening more and more with legislation in this day and age. The fact that it is not enough to leave sex and race discrimination legislation to the courts clearly indicates that this Government does not want the due process of law to apply.

Under our legal system, accusations cannot be made lightly or maliciously; the accused is regarded as innocent until proven guilty; the accused is entitled to remain silent and not incriminate himself or herself and is entitled to legal representation; and adjudication between the prosecution and defence cases is performed by an impartial third party. Since by enacting this Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission legislation the legal system is to be circumvented, logically the Government intends that all these principles are to be circumvented.

An examination of the performance of the existing Human Rights Commission and the proposed workings of the new Commission reveals that this is exactly the case. In practice, the new Commission will have more in common with the Spanish Inquisition than with any part of British legal tradition. In the first place, none of the safeguards of law will protect the accused, and the Commission will have great discretion in accepting charges. None of the sworn affidavits and formal lodging of accusations will be required. A phone call or a scribbled paragraph is all that is required to finger people.


Senator Georges —Is this a second reading speech at the Committee stage?


Senator SHEIL —As there has been a long delay, Senator, I am recalling to you the purposes and effects of the legislation. It will not take long. As in Soviet Russia, on the whispered denunciation of a spiteful neighbour, hapless citizens will be dragged before the Commission's tribunals to answer for imagined crimes. Unlike civil law, where a litigant must prove the case against the accused, the Commission itself will gather evidence against its victims, with Commission agents secretly spying on people to gather further proof of sexist of racist proclivities. Once denounced to the tribunals, the accused will then be forced to prove his or her innocence. The onus of proof, fundamental to our legal system, will be reversed and defendants will be regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

Unlike our legal system, those summoned to answer charges will have no right to legal representation, and will be forced to defend themselves against their inquisitors. There will be no right for the accused to remain silent, and severe penal provisions will be enforced to coerce people to incriminate themselves. Those judged to have answered unsatisfactorily by the Commission's star chambers will also be punished by them. Unlike our measured and cautious legal system, the Commission will be policeman, prosecutor, judge and jury-the swift dispenser of revolutionary justice. It will do this to people for crimes that are real or imagined-a system all too familiar to new Australians who have fled socialist tyranny.


Senator Gareth Evans —Do you actually believe all of this?


Senator SHEIL —I will give the Minister examples of how it has already happened under the Human Rights Commission in Australia. As for the concept of an impartial judiciary-which has been questioned today-so central to our time-honoured British legal tradition, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will have none of it. The bias and even political bigotry of the present Human Rights Commissioner can be expected to be proudly continued by its successor. Decisions such as the recommendation that homosexual relationships should form a basis for immigration entitlement and the banning of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr N. A. Brown) from Human Rights Commission offices because he dared to criticise it are evidence of this.

In one case, the bias of the Commission was so gross that an appeal to the Federal Court of Australia against a Commission decision resulted in it being overturned, with the judge commenting that the Commission's black agent was herself biased against whites! Recently in Queensland an unemployed girl was given a chance of a job under the community employment program and abused her employer-benefactor by stealing from him. As a result she was sacked, but then pursued a grudge claim of sexual harassment and was awarded $7,000 against her former employer.

As a quasi-judicial body the Human Rights Commission is worse than a farce, and its successor, that this legislation will create, will pervert justice even further. Indeed, even the name `Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission' is a calculated misnomer, to be ranked with the Orwellian `Ministry of Love' in 1984. Clearly, the real role of the so-called Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is nothing to do with protecting rights and everything to do with changing and subverting society.

The Commission can be regarded by right-thinking people only as an insidious thought police, empowered to abrogate common law and common liberty to undermine traditional community attitudes and values. Already newspeak terms such as `salesperson' and `spokesperson' have been foisted upon us. A few years ago such ludicrous terms would have drawn guffaws of laughter, but today people are being forced to use them.

Ultimately the target of this Pol Pot style social engineering is the family, which is deeply resented by feminists and opposed by the hardcore Left as an obstacle to the state. While the family exists as the basic unit of society, children will receive much of their moral and political education from their parents rather than the state. Only when the family and the church are dissolved will the individual be fully accessible to propaganda. The real role of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is to function as big Bob's thought police, to help undermine traditional attitudes and values by persuasion or coercion, and ultimately form another stone in the edifice of the socialist state.