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Address to Australian Labor Party National Conference, Sydney



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL

HON ROBERT McCLELLAND MP

ADDRESS TO THE

AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY NATIONAL CONFERENCE

CHAPTER TEN - OPEN AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNMENT

SYDNEY

SUNDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2011

Address to the Australian Labor Party National Conference 4 December 2011

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CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Firstly, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet -

and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.

President, I move Chapter Ten of the Australian Labor Party Platform entitled Open and

Accountable Government.

Delegates - our constitutional founders charged all Australian governments with the

responsibility of providing good Governance in the interests of the people of Australia.

And that is precisely what the Gillard Government has been doing. Despite being a

minority Government we have passed over 200 Acts of Parliament.

We have done that in the context of strengthening our democratic institutions and putting

the rights of citizens, front and centre of the legislative process.

Our Human Rights Framework advances open and accountable Government by requiring

Parliament to consider the impact of legislation on the rights and freedoms of all

Australians. And the establishment of the Joint Committee of Human Rights will enable

the public to be consulted on how their rights may be affected.

Open and accountable Government goes to the legitimacy of Government itself.

It earns the respect of citizens and distinguishes our democratic system from other

regimes who without that legitimacy, rely on coercive force to control and suppress their

citizens.

To ensure citizens have confidence in the processes of Government we have implemented

the world’s best practice Freedom of Information laws.

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To ensure that we give meaning to one of the most fundamental of human rights "the

right to be left alone" we are consulting with the community with a view of

reforming our privacy laws and creating an enforceable right of privacy.

Where necessary, Labor won't shirk our responsibility to have strong national security

laws. But it is important to ensure that those laws are balanced and subject to appropriate

oversight.

In that context I remind delegates that with broad community support we have reformed

our Counter Terrorism arrangements to develop greater cooperation between agencies

that has improved their collective capabilities.

At the same time, we have enhanced safeguards.

We have repealed archaic association offences. We have reframed sedition laws so that

they focus on preventing the incitement of violence and introduced defences in respect to

artistic, academic and journalistic works. We have also imposed strict time limits on the

detention of any person as part of the investigation process and have ensured that there

is judicial oversight at all stages.

Significantly we have increased parliamentary oversight of these laws and enhanced the

powers of the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

Finally, have also recently appointed one of Australia's pre-eminent Counsel, Mr Brett

Walker QC as the National Security Legislation Monitor.

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Access to justice is also central to accountability. In that context Labor has increased the

funding of community legal services by $154 million. This is the largest injection of

funding in the sector’s history.

We have developed more options for alternative dispute resolution outside the expensive

processes of litigation and we have enhanced the Courts’ case management powers to

ensure that the parties with superior resources can't exploit technicalities to thwart

accountability.

Finally, we have taken steps to address the national disgrace of indigenous victimisation

and incarceration - to turn around the trend which has resulted in the doubling of

incarceration rates over the last decade. A situation which has resulted in indigenous

youths who constitute 2.5 percent of the population but make up 25 percent of the

juvenile detention population.

Specifically we are making addressing this unacceptable situation part of the Closing the

Gap agenda. And with the States and Territories we are taking practical measures to

reduce both the rate of offending and rate of victimisation in Aboriginal communities.

But there is much more work to be done and I look forward to working with party units as

we continue to work to enhance the rights of all Australians.

I commend this chapter to all delegates.

ENDS