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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5349

To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:

The Petition of the undersigned university student shows, that Australia does not have a bill of rights. However, we are signatories to many international conventions on human rights including The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. I know the current government would rather ignore international human rights, such as refugee rights and the right to strike.

I deplore this current government's attitude on this issue. I note that this government is attempting to deregulate university fees and HECS. I also note that this government wishes to rationalise university courses and will attempt to thwart the ability of university staff to agitate for anything that resembles uniform working conditions.

I draw your attention to Australia's obligations under article 13 of the ICESCR where it states—

Article 13

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

2. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise that, with a view to achieving the full realisation of this right:

(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;

(e) The, development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.

3. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

4. No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph 1 of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

Your Petitioner asks that because governments cannot be trusted to maintain this right—that the Senate should enact this right into law as part of an Australian Bill of Rights.

by Senator Nettle (from 165 citizens).