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Moral leadership needed on indigenous UN Declaration.

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Peter Garrett MP

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation and the Arts Member for Kingsford Smith

Senator Chris Evans Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

12 October 2006

Moral Leadership needed on Indigenous UN Declaration

Labor calls on the Howard Government to show moral leadership and adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples later this year in Geneva.

In a public briefing at Parliament House today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, Legal Consultant Megan Davis and the Chair of the Asia-Pacific Indigenous caucus Les Malezer said they hoped the Australian Government would change its position and vote to adopt the Declaration.

The Declaration is not legally enforceable, but an aspirational document that sets out ideals and benchmarks for the treatment of Indigenous people.

The Declaration is the product of 20 years of drafting and negotiation between Indigenous and State delegations.

After being adopted by an overwhelming majority of the Human Rights Council, it will go to the General Assembly in Geneva later this year. Sadly, the Australian Government has flagged it will oppose the Declaration.

The Labor Party is proud of its constructive role in the negotiations during the Hawke-Keating Government and is disappointed that the Howard Government has not only taken an adversarial attitude to negotiations, but also successfully lobbied other nation states like Canada to reverse their position.

It's clear their opposition to the Declaration is ideological, because they continue to point out worse case scenarios rather than interpreting the provisions in good faith.

There is still time for the Howard Government to show it genuinely cares about reconciliation.

Right now Indigenous Australians don't have any constitutional acknowledgement, no settlement, no bill of rights, no representative body and no national leadership on reconciliation.

Adopting this Declaration gives this country a set of aspirations that we can all hold on to.

Andy Palfreyman (Garrett) 0434 600 577; Tim Friedrich (Evans) 0417 753 219