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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2827


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(9.41) —I indicate the Government's support for the Australian Democrats' amendment which would enable the Human Rights Commission to report on the action that needs to be taken by Australia to comply with relevant international instruments without having to await a request to do so from the Minister. Any Executive government has a slight sense of trepidation in allowing any agency to embark upon investigations of this kind on its own initiative. However, such is our confidence in the Human Rights Commission, as newly constituted, behaving sensibly, rationally and responsibly that we are prepared to accept the Democrats' amendment which brings this clause very much more in line with the language and content of the rest of clause 11 than would be the case if this amendment were not carried.

As to the Queensland electoral laws possibly being an appropriate task for the Human Rights Commission, I do not want to open up that subject tonight. I simply say that it remains the Government's intention to make an early reference to the new Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in relation to electoral laws. Such a reference would ask whether the relevant laws are inconsistent with the guarantee of universal and equal suffrage which is the language of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Obviously, as I have said on many occasions, this question can by no means be assumed to be the case. Much depends on what the language of the Covenant actually means in this context. I am not able to say. I hope there is not any change in the remaining part of the Government's position as it was earlier articulated by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke).