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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2619

Senator WALTERS —I refer the Attorney-General to his pathetic and inaccurate attempt on Monday to suggest that support for Hawke Government policies had secured Australia a place on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1985 to 1987. Is it not a fact that Australia was a member of the Commission from 1947 to 1956 and rejoined the Commission in 1978 during the period of the Fraser Government? Will he now admit that the extension of Australia's term is primarily the result of the reputation established over a long period of Liberal -National Party governments, or will he persist with another phony 'Record of Government' type claim, the hollowness of which is demonstrated by the historical situation I have outlined?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case, of course, that the fine traditions laid down by the Chifley Labor Government in 1947 were enough to sustain for a short period thereafter the reputation of Australia on that international body through the 1950s. It is also the case that under the Fraser Administration we managed to scramble aboard the Commission in 1978. It is a matter of some miraculous achievement as a result of that experience that we were able by virtue of the superior credibility of this Government to achieve the otherwise unlikely and certainly very unusual feat of re-establishing a position on that body, notwithstanding the duration of the previous tenure.

Whatever may have been the case previously with the lip service paid to human rights matters by the previous administration, in particular in such ways as the derisory terms of Australia's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, notwithstanding the concerns that were expressed by a number of other countries about the gap between the rhetoric and the actual performance in human rights matters, it is the case that Australia's international human rights standing now is as high as it was back in the initial days of Mr Chifley and his Government. Undoubtedly, as the result of the kinds of initiatives the present Government is taking both domestically and around the world it will rank even higher still in the days ahead.