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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 2976

Senator SHORT(11.28) —I do not think that the criticisms that have been put forward by this side of politics about the Commission are in any way carping criticisms. They are criticisms or comments that go to the heart of where this country is going in terms of its value systems and the whole mechanism of promoting the ensuring of human rights. We have a system in this country, and we have had it for generations, basically through the common law, but also through the traditions that have been built up over two centuries, which have given us probably the most value free and secure human rights of virtually any country. We now have a situation which, with the existence in particular of the Human Rights Commission, has developed over recent years, and which is causing serious concerns, I think, to quite a few sections of the Australian community. We now have an institution which is going to be given more powers than the Commission to date has had. It will be able to continue to perpetuate its role in value setting in Australian society. Far from being a carping comment, I think it is a quite fundamental comment to make that there surely has to be some assurance that the bias that has come into the operation of the Human Rights Commission over recent years is not going to be perpetuated. If we want good will to be generated towards the new Commission, the last thing that the Government should do is to set up a Commission when the Government can give no assurance to those who are very concerned that the Commission is not going to lead us down a path that is contrary to the views of most Australians.

I totally reject the comment of the Minister that it is a carping criticism. I think it is a fundamental comment that goes to the heart of institutions and values in this country, and it is a criticism to which the Government has as yet given no sound reply.