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Human rights start at home?

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Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Attorney-General Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women

Human rights start at home?

Labor welcomes the election of Australia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mike Smith, to the important role as Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Labor also welcomes the commitment by Minister Downer that Australia would use this position to “promote the importance of independent national human rights institutions”.


“I assume this marks a change of heart by the Government and a commitment to drop its legislative plans to curtail the independence of Australia’s own Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC),” Ms Roxon said today.

The Howard Government has an appalling record of treating our own national human rights body. Since 1996 the Howard Government has continually cut funding (a 40% cut in real terms) and attempted on several occasions to weaken the independence and effectiveness of HREOC through changes to Commonwealth legislation.

“If the Howard Government is serious about defending and protecting Human Rights, it can start at home by:

â reinstating the pre-1996 budget of HREOC;

â guaranteeing that all Commissioner positions at HREOC will be filled

immediately following a vacancy; â supporting the important role that HREOC plays in eliminating

discrimination in all spheres of life; â withdrawing legislation that erode HREOC’s powers and reduce its


“While hosting workshops in Geneva might be a glamorous contribution, Minister Downer and the Attorney-General would do better to focus more attention on how this appointment to the UN can be used to eliminate discrimination in communities and workplaces across Australia”.

21 January 2004

For more information call: Nicola Roxon or Chris Black on (03) 9687 7355 or 0417 386 535