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Budget sends all the wrong messages on Human Rights



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Duncan Kerr IVIHR

Federal Member for Denison Shado w Minister for Immigration

and Assistant to the Leader of the Opposition

on Multicultural Affairs

188 Cons St, Hcbart 7000

Ph 031 62 345 255 Fax ! 03i 62 238 560

GPO Box 32A Hobart Tas, 7701

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Stitmnt 14Mayj 99i

Budget Sends All The Wrong Messages on Human Rights

The Howard Government budget attacks the very infrastructure which provides the safeguards for human rights and Australia's commitment at a time when the institutional protection of human rights is at its most important.

Spending on the protection of human rights has been cut in this year's budge t by $1.5 million and slashed by a further $6 million in subsequent years.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), a body which is facing a massively increased workload because of the recent Hanson phenomenon, has been cut by 40% - $3.6 million this year and over $7 million in the following years.

The Australian Red Cross is hit with a cut of over $2 million.

The Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme virtually disappears in the forward estimates.

The Anti Racism Education Campaign, if it is ever to see the light of day, has had half a million dollars chopped from its $5 million allocation in last year's budget.

The move to conduct market research and get on with the much needed caniPaign had the 1997. It blessing of the Minister, Mr Ruddock, late last year, and was to be launched early has been stalled by the Prime Minister personally. Another example of a total lack of judgement.

Mr Howard's coded message rolls on. It's all wrong. It diminishes Australia internationally. It allows the divisive forces in our society to go on. It sets this country back decades.

Mr Howard is practically checking off the wish list made by Pauline Hanson in her first speech.

Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

Telephone (06)27 7 2178

Another breath-taking measure is the plan to tender out the detention function of the

Commonwealth to the private sector. It will be in the interest of the private provider to keep unlawful arrivals detained as long as possible, and a symbiotic relationship is bound to develop between the private provider and the pressure groups.

This is privatisation gone mad, and a prime example why some functions should remain the responsibility of government.

In other measures, spending on multicultural affairs has been cut by $118 000 on top of last year's $800 000. This makes a mockery of the Government's boasting of elevating the status of multiculturalism to the Ministry.

The Grant-In-Aid program has been cut by $1.4 million, which will see up to 40 Grant-In-Aid workers disappear - those workers are at the coal face who help communities in the vital period of settlement.

It is also disturbing to see the axing of the National Asian languages strategy for Australian schools. With our increasing trade and cultural relations with our Asian neighbours, this will disadvantage young Australian men and women. A puzzling juxtaposition with Mr Howard's rhetoric during his visit to China.

Further Contact: Duncan Kerr 0418 125 161

George Haddad 06 277 2180