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Anti Teoh-Bill Coalition



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MEDIA STATEMENT Anti Teoh-Bill Coalition 23 October 1995 95/467

'Teoh' Bill* Must Go

A broad coalition of human rights organisations, churches, community groups, the Greens and the Australian Democrats today called on the Australian Government to withdraw the so-called Anti Teoh' Bill as a "travesty of generally acceptable rules of civilised behaviour between nations and a threat to human rights."

They also urged the Coalition to vote against the bill, particularly in view of Mr Howard's reported commitment to the promotion of universal human rights standards as "fundamental to individual freedom and dignity".

The bill removes any obligations for Australian officials to consider Australia's commitments under treaties we have signed and ratified.

As a result, Australia would be seen to be utterly hypocritical; on the one hand professing to make commitments on human rights, the environment, trade and other issues, but on the other hand allowing its own public servants to ignore these commitments.

In addition, the bill would choke off the continuing and gradual development of standards on human rights, environmental protection and trade relations by encouraging public sen/ants to disregard what the Australian Government solemnly undertook to observe on behalf of all Australians.

The Government's bill is an overreaction to the High Court's decision in Teoh's case which established that an Australian decision-maker must consider Australia's obligations under a treaty and further that the applicant must be heard and must be informed of the reasons for the decision if the decision-maker decides not to act in accordance with the treaty commitment.

Thus, the High Court's decision does not impose an obligation to act in accordance with the treaty, but merely to consider it.

It is, and remains the prerogative of the Australian Parliament to turn these treaty commitments into legal obligations by enacting legislation and until parliament does so, they merely have the potential to influence the thinking of our decision-makers, as they should.

Administrative Decisions (Effect of International Instruments) Bill 1995.

There is therefore no compelling reason for the Government to choke off the development of human rights principles and to expose Australia to the contempt and criticism of the world community as a two-faced and unreliable treaty partner.

In the absence of a clear Government commitment to rethink its legislation, the National Children's and Youth Law Centre intends to lodge a complaint against the bill with the UN Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and to seek urgent intervention

by the Committee against this legislation which must surely represent a low point in international relations.

This move is supported by the signatories to this statement, but we do hope that withdrawal of the bill will remove the need for this action.

In addition, several organisations have made individual statements and these will also be available at the Press Conference, (see appendix)

This statement is authorised by:

Tina Dolgopol, representing: Penelope Lee Sid Spindler 1

Prof Stuart Rees" Peter Stewart Laurie O'Sullivan Helen Bayes Lisa Ogle -'.v ”

Liz Curran John Davey

Ian Fry "

Nick Ward

Robert Ludbrook Marian Sheridan" Prof Neville Turner Shayne Wilde 1

Christabel Chamarette " Rev Robert Stringer

Joseph O'Reilly " Ingrid McKenzie" Marian Beck Tony Hosken

Kristen Walker Stephen Walker

Action for Children SA Inc. - p(06) 369 2169 Australian Council for Overseas Aid - p(06) 285 1816 Australian Democrats - p(03)9416 1880 Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Uni of Sydney - p(02)351 4091 Christian Centre for Social Action - p(09) 381 2474 Council for Civil Liberties ACT Inc. - p(06) 248 5440

Defence for Children International - p(06) 247 9395 Environmental Defenders Office - p(02) 261 3599 Federation of Community Legal Centres - p(03)9602 4949 Gay Men and Lesbians Against Discrimination (GLAD) - p(03)9596 8118(w), p(03)9596 9806(ah). Greenpeace Australia - p(02) 211 4066

Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgenderist Anti Violence Council (Old) - p(07)3844 2075 National Children's & Youth Law Centre - p(02) 398 7488 National Women's Justice Coalition - p(06) 247 2075 OZ Child - Children Australia - p(03)9695 2200 Old Assn Gay & Lesbian Rights - p(07)3892 5767(ah) The Greens (WA) - p(09) 481 1244

Uniting Church Assembly National Social Responsibility and Justice Committee - p(02) 287 0900 Victorian Council for Civil Liberties - p(03)9629 5222 Women's Electoral Lobby - p(06) 247 1586

Child's rights activist - p(042) 844 660 Barrister - p(09) 325 7944 Lecturer in Law, University of Melbourne - p(03)9344 8138

Solicitor - p(09) 430 4611

For Comment:

Senator C Chamarette p(06) 277 3790 f(06) 277 3588

Senator S Spindler p(06) 277 3640 f(06) 277 3741

Additional Statements on the Anti-Teoh Bill

The following organisations, w hile not being signatories to the jo in t statem e n t, have

expressed opposition to the 'anti-Teoh' legislation.

The Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission "The H u m an R ights and E qual O pportunity Commission considers the Bill un n ecessary and a re tre a t from A u stra lia ’s good record in supporting h u m an rights treaties. W hile th is would not affect tre a tie s incorporated into A u stralian law, it could clearly reduce th e effectiveness of the H um an Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act in preventing and providing rem edies for violations of h u m an rig h t in accordance w ith the original in te n tio n of

P arliam en t. This re su lt would be unacceptable to the Commission an d we believe, the

broader com m unity."

Amnesty International "Amnesty In te rn a tio n a l believes th a t the A u stralian G overnm ent's a tte m p ts to th w a rt the im pact of in te rn a tio n a l law on dom estic law, by introducing the Adm inistrative Decisions (Effect of International Instrum ents) Bill 1995, will underm ine A u stralia's ability to raise hum an rig h ts concerns w ith other countries by sending confusing m essages about its

com m itm ent to h u m an rights. The legislation, if passed, will leave A u stralia vulnerable to the criticism of double stan d a rd s about the very principles it is actively prom oting abroad. This could seriously underm ine the effectiveness of A ustralia's hum an rig h ts diplomacy.

A m nesty In te rn a tio n a l considers th a t A ustralia's ratification of any h u m an rig h ts in s tru m e n t establishes th e in ten tio n and m oral obligation to act in accordance w ith th e object and

purpose of th a t in stru m e n t. The introduction of th is Bill appears to be totally inco n sisten t w ith A u stralia's long-standing and com m endable position on the significance of in te rn a tio n a l stan d a rd s an d the need to apply them dom estically.

A m nesty In te rn a tio n a l calls on the G overnm ent to m ake it an im m ediate priority to give effect to in te rn a tio n a l tre a tie s by incorporating them into domestic law. W ithout such a m echanism , an d in light of the position spelt out in the "Teoh" Bill, the act of ratificatio n w ill be underm ined an d ren d ered virtually m eaningless. A m nesty In te rn a tio n a l calls on th e A u stralian G overnm ent to tra in public serv an ts in in te rn a tio n a l hum an rig h ts law to act as a

safeguard in the event of th is legislation being passed to encourage them to use th e ir

discretion (as directed by the Bill) to apply in te rn a tio n a l hum an rig h ts law in m aking

decisions th a t affect the lives of people in A ustralia."

F u rth e r details c o n ta c t: M atthew Zagor / J u d ith K ingston on (02) 211 3566

Law Council of Australia The law Council h a s strongly criticised the proposed legislation in subm issions to th e

G overnm ent and to the S enate S tanding Com m ittee on Legal and C onstitutional Affairs.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

The CPSU h as w ritte n to every m em ber of the p a rliam en tary Labor P a rty expressing th e ir opposition to the bill. The union has also spoken out ag ain st the bill a t a forum on th e Teoh High C ourt case organised by the V ictorian Council for Civil Liberties.

TEOH COALITION OF GROUPS

Tina Dolgopol, representing:

Penelope Lee, '

Sid Spindler,

Prof Stuart Rees

Peter Stewart, "

Laurie O'Sullivan

Helen Bayes, "

Lisa Ogle

Liz Curran

John Davey

Ian Fry "

Nick Ward "

Robert Ludbrook

Marian Sheridan

Prof Neville Turner

Shayne Wilde

Christabel Chamarette, "

CONTACT LIST

Action for Children SA Inc. p(08 369 2169

79 McLaughlan Rd Windsor Garden SA 5087 (no fax)

Australian Council for Overseas Aid p(06) 285 1816 f(06) 285 1720

Australian Democrats p(03)9416 1880

f(03)9417 1690

Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies p(02) 351 4091 University of Sydney f(02) 351 3783

Christian Centre for Social Action p(09) 381 2474 f(09) 381 2474

Council for Civil Liberties ACT Inc. p(06 248 5440 f(06) 273 2084

Defence for Children International p(06) 247 9395 f(06) 247 0278

Environmental Defenders Office p(02) 261 3599

f(02) 267 7548

Federation of Community Legal Centres p(03)9602 4949 f(03)9602 4948

Gay Men & Lesbians Against Discrimination p(03)9596 8118(w) (GLAD) p(03)9596 9806(ah)

f(03)9563 8451

p(02) 211 4066 f(02) 211 4123

p(07)3844 2075

p(02) 398 7488 f(02) 398 7416

p(06) 247 2075 f(06) 257 3070

p(03)9695 2200 f(03)9696 0507

p(07)3892 5767(ah)

p(09)481 1244 f(09)322 1048

Greenpeace Australia

Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgenderist Anti Violence Council (Old)

National Children's & Youth Law Centre

National Women's Justice Coalition

OZ Child - Children Australia

Old Assn Gay & Lesbian Rights

The Greens (WA)

m o r L j ..

z.

Rev Robert Stringer " Uniting Church National p(02) 287 0900

Social Responsibility and Justice Committee f(02) 287 0999

Joseph O'Reilly " Victorian Council for Civil Liberties p(03)9629 5222

f(03)9629 4678

Ingrid McKenzie Women's Electoral Lobby p(06) 247 1586

f(06) 247 1649

INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS:

Marian Beck 65 Keerong Ave. Russell Vale NSW 2517 p(042) 844 660

Tony Hosken Barrister p(09) 325 7944

f(09) 325 4120

Kristen Walker Lecturer in Law, University of Melbourne p(03)9344 8138

f(03)9347 2392

Stephen Walker Solicitor p(09) 430 4611

f(09) 430 6117