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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7632

Senator BROWN (10:13 PM) —I will try again. I did not ask the minister about whether he thought human rights were being observed, protected or otherwise. I asked him about the covenants to which Australia is a signatory and about Australia's obligation to those covenants and whether or not this legislation was consistent with those obligations. That is the question. I also clearly asked the minister whether the government had advice and, if so, what that advice was. It would make the process a lot faster if the minister would answer those questions.

Senator Ellison —I have got nothing to add.

Senator BROWN —Indicted by his own refusal, this minister is in effect admitting that the government does know that this legislation breaches, and breaches serially, international covenants to which Australia is a signatory. The legislation effectively is attempting domestic law which breaches international law. Moreover, I take it from the minister's failure to defend the position with any information at all that he has advice which says just that. We are being asked to sign on to a piece of legislation that breaks the law—very important law at that; international law on human rights, political rights, the rights of children. The minister sits mute—

Senator Ellison —I've answered the question.

Senator BROWN —He says that he has answered the question. Any reasonable person looking at the Hansard will see that he ducked the question. I will ask the minister a very simple component of that question, for the third time, to see whether we can get a yes or no answer: has the government had advice on whether this legislation is or may be in breach of any international covenant?