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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21859

Mr McClelland asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 19 August 2003:

(1) Who represented Australia at the third workshop on UN human rights treaty body reform in Geneva on 3-4 July 2003.

(2) What was the cost of the Australian representatives' attendance.

(3) Which countries attended the workshop and who attended from these countries.

(4) Who attended from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(5) Who attended from the treaty committees and their secretariats.

(6) What were the outcomes of the workshop.

(7) Who is on the standing inter-departmental committee established in 2000 to progress UN treaty body reform and on what dates has the committee met since it was established.

(8) What are the next steps the Government intends to take in UN treaty body reform.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The workshop was chaired by Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and attended by three Canberra-based officials representing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General's Department and two officers from our Permanent Mission in Geneva.

(2) The cost of the Australian Canberra-based representatives' attendance was $21,257.89. This is not a final figure as part of the amount remains subject to acquittal.

(3) The workshop was attended by representatives from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Republic of Korea, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Kenya, Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Estonia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Latvia, Israel, Uganda, and Liechtenstein. Capital-based representatives attended from Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, New Zealand and Liechtenstein. The other participants were Geneva-based representatives.

(4) The Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Head of the Support Services Branch and the Chief of the Treaty Implementation Unit II.

(5) The Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

(6) The theme of the workshop was “Interaction with the Committees: Improving Coordination across the System”. The workshop was an opportunity for States to exchange ideas with each other and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about ways to improve the committee system. Discussions identified the need to make better use of information technology to reduce the load on the committees and States and the need to improve the formulation of the committees' concluding observations. Participants also discussed the benefits of the committees developing a more consistent approach to non-government material. These discussions were timely as the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights was in the process of preparing a report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on reform of aspects of the United Nations human rights system.

(7) The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and AusAID. Other departments have attended committee meetings, depending on the issues being discussed. The inter-departmental committee has met on the following dates: 26 September 2000; 9 November 2000; 14 December 2000; 27 February 2001; 18 April 2001; 12 June 2001; 27 August 2001; 23 November 2001; 8 March 2002; 9 May 2002; 19 September 2002; 28 November 2002; 16 May 2003.

(8) The Government will continue to work with the United Nations and other reform-minded countries to ensure that the momentum for treaty body reform continues. On 30 September 2003, the then Attorney-General, the Honourable Daryl Williams AM QC MP and I met with the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to discuss the reform of the human rights treaty bodies. The Acting High Commissioner is due to report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations with recommendations for reform of aspects of the human rights treaty body system. While in Geneva, we met with other key figures, including the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Ambassadors from reform-minded countries. Each of these meetings was an opportunity for the Government to feed Australia's perspective on treaty body reform into continuing efforts to reform that system.