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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1795


Senator TAMBLING (11.08 a.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

The document tabled today entitled National action plan: Australia and accompanying comments by Senator Gareth Evans QC was initiated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans) and presented on 22 February 1994 to the 50th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. It is an insult to this parliament that it has only now surfaced and been tabled in this place. My colleague Senator Rod Kemp has highlighted this matter and I think it is only as a result of his actions and his reservations that we now see it being presented.

  If we turn to the detail of the report, we see that it is a document that ought to demand the attention of each and every parliamentarian. Just about every area of government activity is now subjected to, in one form or another, a national action plan that is subservient to United Nations issues and proposals that flow from an international agenda that has been put forward. Of course, this is important.

  I highlighted last night in the adjournment debate that the government had failed to table a north Australia social justice strategy which was distributed last week by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Howe. That report—and I refer people to the adjournment debate last night—went into a whole range of issues, in fact more than 240, that were specifically addressed with regard to disadvantage and Labor's social justice priorities on north Australia. That hidden report also highlighted over 170 specific strategies for social justice in north Australia. If we then turn to the national action plan for human rights, which has now been tabled, we find that a whole number of the issues are totally confusing and inconsistent. It is important that these should be drawn to everyone's attention.

  With regard to the areas that specifically affect me in my shadow ministry portfolio of housing, on page 33 of today's report there is an entire listing of a proposed national action plan for housing. This in turn has to be tested against the government's budget priorities and housing issues that have arisen.

  With regard to the north Australian social justice strategy, which I drew to the attention of honourable senators last night, on page 69 of today's report there is an entire section on protecting the rights of rural and isolated people. We find that on page 70 of the proposed national action plan there are only three sentences that address the issues of the rights of rural and isolated people. I refer to the issue that was raised last night in the social justice plan where pages and pages and over 170 strategies were highlighted.

  I turn to the area in today's report that lists the issues that relate to protecting the rights of indigenous people. This again needs to be drawn into the other document that was tabled by me, not by the government, last night. On pages 40 and 41 of today's report there is a list of issues relating to indigenous rights. Naturally the government is crowing about the issues relating to the Native Title Bill and the initiatives that it has put through recently with regard to ATSIC. But there is also the commitment to Aboriginal self-determination, and tucked away is a statement of commitment that subjugates this government to issues relating to the United Nations that are totally inconsistent with other plans and proposals that it is putting forward.

  Again I refer honourable senators to the north Australia social justice strategy that I mentioned last night. Because this is going to achieve some local consumption there is only one very small three-page chapter on the specific issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You just indicated, Mr Acting Deputy President, that this report, if we were lucky, would have been on the agenda for the last day of sitting. Quite frankly, it would have disappeared into the bowels of the library forever and would never have received proper and due consideration. I hope that several of my other colleagues will also take the opportunity to comment on this report.