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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1712


Senator KEMP (3.23 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans), to a question without notice asked by Senator Ferguson this day, relating to Australian constitutional history.

It may not be apparent to those on the Labor side, because they did not have the opportunity of seeing Senator Gareth Evans's face, but when he described Mr Keating as a `constitutional expert' the grin went from ear to ear. It was one of the funniest things I have heard on this side of the chamber for a long time. I do not propose to admonish Senator Evans for that.

  During his remarks, Senator Evans raised the very provocative issue of appeals to the Privy Council. Australia abolished appeals to the Privy Council in 1986. The abolition of those appeals was supported on both sides of the chamber. What concerns me is the provocative way this was raised. Senator Evans knows as well as I do that in 1990-91 the Hawke Government decided to open up appeals to UN committees to allow the UN Human Rights Committee to become involved in Australian domestic disputes.

  I think that action by the government overturned the philosophy of the Australia Act. I point out to Senator Evans that every time those on the government side talk about this Privy Council I will be getting up in this chamber and reminding the chamber and the public that it was this government that overturned the philosophy of the Australia Act and agreed to involve UN committees in Australian domestic activities. I think that was an appalling action, particularly as it was done without any reference to this parliament and despite the opposition of some of the states.

  I guess Australians want to know who is on these committees—it is a question which I have posed from time to time to Senator Evans—and the names of the people who will be making rulings on Australian domestic disputes. There are now three committees involved. There is the UN Human Rights Committee, which the Hawke government decided in September 1981 that Australians could take complaints to. Then the great republican Paul Keating decided just before the 1993 election that one UN committee was not sufficient, and that we had to have two more so that there may be another range of appeals by Australians that could be taken to the UN in Geneva. These were the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee Against Torture.

  It is interesting that many on these committees are the nominees of governments that do not themselves practise human rights and democracy as we know it in Australia. I have raised in this chamber the astonishing aspect that on one of the committees that Mr Keating decided should make rulings on Australian disputes there happens to be a nominee of Fidel Castro: Carlos Hevia. I raised this issue with Senator Evans before and Senator Evans was unable to tell me what particular expertise Castro's nominee can bring to human rights disputes in this country.

  There are 18 people on the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—I can see that some Labor senators are interested in this, as distinct from Senator Evans—and 11 of them are nominated by countries that do not allow appeals from their own citizens to that particular committee. It is interesting that whereas Carlos Hevia of Cuba can rule on Australian disputes, we do not get the right to rule on disputes in Cuba. I do not know what Senator Evans can do about that, but I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard—I think Australians want to know who these people are and what particular expertise they have—the names of the members of the three UN committees to which this republican government has decided Australians can now take complaints.


Senator Gareth Evans —Provided you put their formal qualifications beside the names. Can you do that?


Senator KEMP —There they are; I will pass them to Senator Evans.

  Leave granted.

  The list read as follows

UN COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

(The Keating Government decided Australians could take complaints to this Committee in February 1993.)

  M.J. Yutzis—Argentina *

  Hamzat Ahmadu—Nigeria *

  Ivan Garvalov—Bulgaria

  Andrew Chigovera—Zimbabwe *

  Songu Shuhua—China *

  Mahmoud Aboul-Nasr—Egypt *

  Valencia Rodriguez—Ecuador

  Michael P Banton—UK *

  Shanti Sadiq Ali—India *

  Carlos L Hevia—Cuba *

  T Van Boven—Netherlands

  Agha Shahi—Pakistan *

  E Ferrero Costa—Peru

  Ion Diaconu—Romania *

  Michael E Sherifis—Cyprus

  Regis de Gouttes—France

  Yuri A Rechetov—Russian Fed.

  Rudiger Wolfram—Germany *

* countries that have not ratified Article 14 allowing complaints from their own citizens to the Committee

italics—countries designated by Freedom House as either not free or partly free

UN COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE

(The Keating Government decided Australians could take complaints to this Committee in February 1993.)

Alexis D Mouelle—Cameroon *

Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas—Greece

Mukunda Regmi—Nepal *

Bent Sorensen—Denmark

Alexander M Yakovlev—Russian Fed

Ricardo G Laverdra—Argentina

Peter T Burns—Canada

Fawzi El Ibrashi—Egypt *

Hassib Ben Ammar—Tunisia

Hugo Lorenzo—Uruguay

* countries that have not ratified Article 22 allowing complaints from their own citizens to the Committee

italics—countries designated by Freedom House as either not free or partly free

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE

(The Hawke Government decided that Australians could take complaints to this Committee in September 1991.)

Kurt Herndl—Austria

Elizabeth Evatt—Australia

Julio P Vallejo—Ecuador

F J Aguillor Urbina—Costa Rica

Omran El Shafei—Egypt *

Anreaas Mavrommatis—Cyprus

Christine Chanet—France

Tamas Ban—Hungary

Nisuke Ando—Japan *

Fausto Pocar—Italy

Waleed Sadi—Jordan *

Laurel Francis—Jamaica

Birame N'Diaye—Senegal

Rajsoomer Lallah—Mauritius

Bertil Wennergren—Sweden

Rosalyn Higgins—UK *

Vojin Dimitrijevic—Yugoslavia *

Marco Tulio Bruni Celli—Venezuela

* countries that have not signed and ratified the First Optional Protocol

italics—countries designated by Freedom House as either not free or partly free