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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2166


Senator MACKLIN —My question is to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Does the Government acknowledge that the equal rights of Australian citizens to elect governments of their choice is a basic and democratic human right? Does the Minister agree that the corrupt Queensland electoral system denies such fundamental rights? Will he give an assurance that the Government will give its blessing to any inquiry into the corrupt Queensland electoral system by the Human Rights Commission and that any Bill of Rights introduced into this Parliament will also acknowledge such fundamental human rights?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, as to the first two questions. Clearly, I have been saying as much in this Parliament all week, and indeed as long as I have been in this Parliament, but the matter has been acutely drawn to our attention with the outrageous gerrymander that has become public knowledge in the last few days. As to the question of an investigation by the Human Rights Commission into the electoral situation in Queensland, that is something in the first instance for the Human Rights Commission itself to embark upon. I cannot imagine that the Attorney-General would have any views which would inhibit in any way the role of the Human Rights Commission in that respect, either under its present legislative charter or under any that might be created in the future. That is a matter for the Attorney-General and I will refer Senator Macklin's remarks to him.

As to the content of the proposed Bill of Rights, which I understand is being debated in the other place today, there is of course a clause in that Bill which guarantees in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights universal and equal suffrage to all Australian citizens. It is a matter no doubt for future debate in this place and elsewhere as to the extent to which such a guarantee should apply to the States. It is a matter of interest, as I have mentioned previously in this chamber, that the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which has considered this question, has come forward with a recommendation that the Bill be amended in that respect-even if not to apply to the States generally, at least that it should do so so far as electoral guarantees are concerned. No doubt that is something the Attorney-General and the Government will take very closely into account should it become an issue, as no doubt it is likely to, when the Bill is debated in this place. Again, I will refer Senator Macklin's question to the Attorney-General for such further comment as he might wish to make.