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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 761

Senator KEMP —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The minister would be aware that the Keating government opened up the possibility of complaints by Australians to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Is he aware that many members of this committee are nominated by governments which have appalling human rights records? Specifically, can the minister explain why he thinks it is appropriate for a nominee of the Castro government, Carlos Hevia, to make rulings on human rights disputes in Australia?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The members of the Human Rights Committee might be nominated by respective governments, but they have to be people of high standing, of expertise, of capacity, of good judgment, and acknowledged and accepted as such by the international community as a whole, who actually elects them to the position on the committee. They are not nominated to some slot that is earmarked or identified in advance as the appropriate slot for this particular country. They are people chosen, like Elizabeth Evatt of this country, on the basis of their expertise, of their credibility, and of their capacity to make sensible decisions on these difficult and sensitive matters that do come before them.

  At the end of the day, the decisions made by these people, through this particular committee, are simply advisory only. They are not self-executing in any way. They do depend on being picked up and applied by the country in question in the exercise of its own sovereign authority. There is no self-enforcing follow-on at all from decisions of this kind. They are simply designed to expose the issues, identify the nature of the principles that are involved, identify and explain and interpret the particular international rules that are involved, and let countries make their own judgment, as a result, as to how they want to react to that.

  Senator Kemp has to appreciate that we are in the business of being part of a wider international community these days. We are not an isolated, inward-looking little Anglo-Saxon backwater of the kind that he mentally inhabits and is unable to pull himself out of. We are a country that interrelates with the world. We are a country that depends on international institutions to set many of the rules by which we operate in the international trading environment and the international business environment, as well as in other ways.

  We have much to gain from participation in that international community in all sorts of direct and immediate ways. For those opposite to turn their minds against that, to turn their policy against that, is to be turning themselves against the kind of course that a country such as ours must chart in this latter part of the 20th century if we are going to maximise our potential. I think that point is very well understood by the wider Australian community. Unless and until Senator Kemp and his side of politics begin to understand it, they will go on being the irrelevant rump that they are at the moment.

Senator KEMP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Evans will have a hard task to convince the Australian people that he and human rights committees should become involved and meddle in Australian disputes, particularly as he has been running the republican line now for a year and a half. My question to the minister is in relation to this particular committee, which he seems to think has the talents and expertise to become involved in Australian disputes. Can he explain why 10 of the 18 members of the committee are nominated by governments which have appalling human rights records? Secondly, why are 11 members of that committee nominated by governments who do not allow disputes from their own countries to go to that committee? Why should Australians have to put up with this?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As Michael Lavarch said when he was doing Senator Kemp like a dinner on the Lateline program a few weeks ago, that kind of reasoning would have said, `What is to be served by having someone like Nelson Mandela sitting on this committee?' if he had been nominated by South Africa at any time before 1990?

Senator Kemp —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Carlos Hevia, the nominee of the Castro government, is no Nelson Mandala.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. That is a facetious point of order and it is one of a continuing number of facetious points of order made by you, Senator Kemp. I ask you not to repeat them.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think the point is well enough made. These are distinguished individuals nominated and elected by the whole international community. There are a lot of countries in this world that you do not approve of, Senator Kemp—

Senator Kemp —You sold us out. You never asked the people.

Senator GARETH EVANS —But there are a lot of people around the world who would not approve of your dogmatic, narrow minded, inward looking, out of date, feudal principles. You are an irrelevance—an absolute irrelevance—and that policy is an irrelevance.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Kemp, please keep quiet. I remind you once again that interjecting is disorderly and it is a constant cacophony from you.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think I have said all that I need to, Mr President.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

Senator Crane —Mr President, I raise a point of order. If you are going to call Senator Kemp into line I would also request that you apply the same rules to all the people over on that side of the chamber, and I would also request that you suggest to Senator Evans that he stop getting excited after lunch.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator Michael Baume —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I noticed in your latest ruling that you did not require the minister to address his remarks that were directed at Senator Kemp through you. It seems to me most inappropriate that you should select Senator Kemp for criticism when, in fact, the minister was directly addressing Senator Kemp in an offensive way.

The PRESIDENT —I directed my comments at Senator Kemp because it was impossible to conceive of any order when there was a constant barrage coming from the person who asked the question.