Response of Australian Democrats to NSW
Human Rights Education Committee's survey.
(the response below was provided by Jeff Malone,
Senator Stott Despoja's Office)
1. How would you work to promote freedom from discrimination?
The Democrats have a long and proud history of campaigning
As outlined below, we have been leaders in promoting reconciliation
and equality for people of all races. On the issue of asylum
seekers, we have consistently pushed for a more tolerant approach.
In relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights,
the Democrats have repeatedly and consistently moved legislation
to remove discriminatory aspects of legislation related to
superannuation, immigration, defence force personnel, and
others, usually to be defeated by the combined votes of the
Coalition and the Labor Party.
The Democrats' bill of rights proposes to entrench comprehensive
provisions dealing with discrimination. We have consistently
argued for greater funding of and an increased role for the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
2. What are your views about a Bill of Rights?
The Australian Democrats have this year introduced in Federal
Parliament an Australian bill of rights. The Bill enacts into
law the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It protects a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms
by giving them legal force. It also promotes the observance
of human rights standards by empowering the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission to inquire into any act or practice
that may infringe the proposed bill of rights.
3. In what ways would you engage with issues of concern
Last year was an exciting year for national reconciliation.
We had the major events of the walk across the Harbour Bridge
and the word 'Sorry' emblazoned in the Sydney sky; followed
by the lighting of the flame by Cathy Freeman and her subsequent
win in the 400 metres. These, linked with the euphoria of
the Olympics, were indeed grand symbolic gestures. They provided
a true measure of the aspirations of our nation to co-exist
in harmony with people of all cultures and in particular with
Much of this seems to have been forgotten in the current climate
of anxiety and global uncertainty - yet it must not be forgotten.
Reconciliation is still one of the most important social issues
facing Australia as a nation. Real political leadership is
needed to keep the reconciliation ball rolling. We must not
let the two leading political parties sideline Aboriginal
Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders yet again.
True Reconciliation encompasses much more than symbols and
rhetoric. It requires the nation to deal with the "unfinished
business" of our past, like the stolen generations and
the social and economic disadvantage that has resulted from
dispossession. It will require us to respect and value Indigenous
cultures and be proud of their contribution to the national
The Democrats are the party which continues to provide leadership
on this issue. We recognise that Australia cannot maintain
its integrity and standing in the community of democratic
nations, if we do not address with urgency the key issues
This is why we have:
1. Always called on the Federal Government, together with
the Australian Parliament, to formally apologise to Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for past wrongs.
2. Introduced the Reconciliation Bill into the Senate to progress
the decade of work completed by the Council for Reconciliation,
and provide a legal framework to begin national discussions
on a treaty or formal agreement that resolves the 'unfinished
3. Been strong advocates of the establishment of a reparations
tribunal for the stolen generations to provide a workable
and compassionate alternative to our adversarial, expensive
4. Pledged to work with all levels of Government, the private
sector and the wider community to address the economic, social
and political disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians
as a result of dispossession;
5. Initiated a motion in the Senate that was unanimously passed
by all parties, to work with Indigenous people, and State
and Territory governments to review the national strategy
against Indigenous Deaths in Custody. The Senate made this
commitment with the aim of reducing the rate at which Indigenous
peoples appear in court and the rate at which they are taken
into custody. We believe it opens the way for more culturally-appropriate
strategies and diversionary programs - which some Indigenous
communities are already implementing with little or no support.
If we are to save the next generation of young Indigenous
peoples from our gaols, this commitment has to be acted on
as a matter of urgency; and
6. Recognised that the vision for reconciliation is 'A united
Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice
and equity for all.'
4. How do you think Government could improve procedures
to asylum seekers?
The Australian Democrats' approach to this issue differs
markedly from that of the major parties.
The Australian Democrats:
1. Oppose mandatory detention
2. Have consistently argued that asylum seekers should be
informed of all their legal rights, including the right to
representation and legal advice and therefore support moves
to increase funding to community legal centres providing this
3. Believe that asylum seekers should have adequate access
to interpreter services;
4. Support increased funding to providers for torture and
5. Have consistently opposed and called for the abolition
of temporary refugee visas;
6. Advocated for the replacement of detention centres with
reception or processing centres where health and asylum claims
are processed over a short time period;
7. Support Australia working more with other countries to
improve their ability and willingness to assist refugees and
other displaced people.
5. What is Australia's role in achieving a balance between
economy, the environment and the social good?
We need to ensure that all policy decisions are directed
towards maximising returns on the triple bottom line, that
is the economic, social and environmental objectives. None
of these objectives can be pursued successfully in isolation
from the other. Countries need a balanced approach if they
are to succeed.
The Democrats are committed to such balance, we are not a
single issue party, nor did we ever support the unbridled
support of economic growth at the expense of the environment
or equity. It may be harder to judge performance when you
are trying to achieve multiple objectives, but when they are
all interrelated, it is essential to do so.
Unless a broad range of factors are considered when decisions
are being made the results will be incompatible with the range
of concerns shared by Australian citizens.
We have issue sheets outlining our policies and record on
a number of the issues raised by your question, available
To provide an example of our activities in one area, listed
below are some highlights of our environmental work.
· Since 1981 the Democrats have introduced 23 pieces
of legislation dealing with nuclear issues. None have been
supported by either old party.
· Democrats introduce the Rainforests Preservation
Agreements Bill, the first attempt to protect Australia's
· Democrats recommend the Franklin River be protected
as a matter of national priority.
· Democrats' World Heritage Properties Conservation
Bill passes the Senate.
· Democrats introduce Queensland Rainforests Conservation
Bill to protect rainforests of North-East Queensland.
· Democrats introduce Bill to prohibit passage of nuclear
powered ships through Australian waters.
· Democrats introduce the Great Barrier Reef Marine
Park Amendment (Prohibition of mining or drilling activities)
· Democrats introduce the Koongarra Project Area Repeal
Bill to return the Koongarra area to Kakadu National Park
· Democrats begin parliamentary fight to protect Jervis
Bay from becoming a naval armaments depot
· Democrats negotiate a bounty to make ethanol cheaper
and more available.
· Democrats call for moratorium on sand mining and
for inquiry into sandmining industry.
· Democrats introduce the Nuclear Power, Uranium Enrichment
and Reprocessing (Prohibition) Bill to prohibit nuclear activities
· Democrats co-fund a legal challenge to woodchip licences
in Tasmania in conjunction with the Tasmanian Conservation
· Democrat amendments to Wet Tropics of Queensland
World Heritage Conservation Bill, tightening restrictions
on commercial developments in the Wet Tropics World Heritage
· Democrats move amendments to ban offshore exploration
or mining in marine parks or marine reserves. The ALP and
Coalition vote against the
· Democrats move amendments to allow tax deductibility
for donations of land to natural heritage conservation. organisations.
Voted against by the ALP and Coalition.
· Democrats lead parliamentary fight to protect the
· Democrats move an Urgency Motion debate in the Senate
criticising the Government for its inadequate response on
· Democrats table legislation banning export of woodchips.
· Democrats convene Greenhouse 95 Conference in Adelaide.
· Democrats successfully amend Great Barrier Reef Marine
Park Act to include the precautionary principle.
· Democrats introduce Constitution Alteration (Ecology,
Diversity and Sustainability) Bill into Senate that would
amend the Constitution to include federal powers to protect
ecosystems and biodiversity.
· Democrats first call of many for labelling of genetically
· In response to Ok Tedi, the Democrats call for a
code of conduct for Australian Companies operating overseas;
a call to be repeated (and ignored by government again) after
the Esmeralda disaster in Romania on 2000.
· Democrats launch and chair inquiry into marine pollution
· Democrats successfully call for inquiry into airport
noise at Sydney Airport
· Move to re-instate sales tax exemption for recycled
paper defeated by ALP and Coalition.
· Democrats gagged by ALP and Coalition in attempt
to ban export of uranium to France
· Democrats lead parliamentary efforts to protect the
rediscovered Mahogany Glider
199l Prohibition of Exportation of Uranium (Customs Act Amendment)
· Uranium Mining in Australian World Heritage Properties
· World Heritage Properties Conservation Amendment
(Protection of Wet Tropics of Tully) Bill
· Natural Heritage Trust Fund Bill
· Democrats take lead in Canberra in opposing Port
· Democrats oppose Effects of Line Fishing Experiment
· Democrats expose Tandem Thrust joint military operation
in dugong protection area.
· Democrats instigate Senate committee into powers
of the Commonwealth in environmental protection.
· Democrats amendments strengthen the Natural Heritage
Trust Fund Bill.
· Democrat amendment adds precautionary principle to
· Democrat motion to control trade in toxic wastes,
defeated without ALP support.
· Democrats motion to stop the Koongarra uranium mine
· Democrat disallowance motion prevent abolition of
Energy Research and Development Corporation, investigating
· Democrats gain Senate agreement for Hinchinbrook
· Motion calling for proclamation of all of Kakadu
as World Heritage and stopping the Jabiluka Mine forever failed.
· Motion calling for moratorium on logging old growth
forests in WA defeated.
· Democrats launch Marine Legal Fighting Fund.
· Draft amendments to strengthen the radiation protection
and nuclear safety bill. Unsuccessful.
· Motion requesting production of documents relating
to Jabiluka successful.
· Motion asking that Senate never permits the setting
up of nuclear dump sites in Australia, successful.
· Motion referring the Jabiluka approval process to
Senate Inquiry, successful.
· Motion calling on the Government to ban human reproductive
cloning and review lack of regulation of the use of cloning,
· Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation
Bill passed with over 400 Democrat amendments significantly
strengthening the Act.
· Report on Jabiluka, chaired by Democrats, is tabled.
Confirms long-held concerns.
· Democrats set up most comprehensive review to date
of Australia's policies to reduce global warming.
· Motion rejecting Pangaea nuclear waste dump, successful.
· Democrats oppose Regional Forests Agreement Bill.
· Democrat motion for urgent action in regard to use
and regulation of genetically modified food receives no support
from either old party.
· Democrat motion calling for Australian delegation
to the WTO to support labelling of genetically modified foods
· Democrat amendment allowing tax deductibility for
land donated for conservation successful.
· Democrats oppose the Petroleum (Submerged Lands)
Bill, parts of which may prevent rights of peaceful protect.
Bill passes with ALP support.
· Democrats call for enforceable code of conduct for
Australian companies operating overseas. Unsuccessful.
· Democrats get support from some State Agricultural
Ministers to pursue national labelling laws and community
consultation about battery cage eggs.
· Democrat motion calling for conversion of Federal
fleet of cars to gas, successful.
· Democrat amendments to the Fisheries Legislation
Bill (No.2) which would have improved monitoring of the fishing
· Democrat amendments to Taxation Bill allow tax deductability
for land donated for conservation purposes.
· Democrat motion to protect grey headed flying fox
colony in Melbourne Botanical Gardens successful.
· Democrat call for inquiry into genetically modified
· Successful Democrat initiative Product Stewardship
(Oil) Bill encourages greater collection, recycling and reuse
of waste oil.
· Democrat motion calling for phase out of battery
cages as soon as possible, successful.
· Democrat initiative, Fuel Quality Standards Bill,
successful. Will improve urban air quality and human health
and sets national standards to ensure fuel quality.
· Alternative Fuels Conversion Program, a Democrat
negotiated initiative, sees to ethanol buses on streets of
· Democrats oppose renewable energy bill, which makes
native forest products eligible sources of renewable energy.
Bill passes with support from ALP.
· Democrats amendments to the EPBC (Wildlife Protection)
Bill significantly strengthen the protections for endangered
and native species. Over 70 Democrat amendments were rejected
by the old parties.
· Democrats successfully amend the Great Barrier Reef
Marine Park Amendment Bill to improve provisions preventing
pollution by ships
· Democrats propose amendments to the Export Markets
Development Grant Bill which would ensure that subsidies are
not paid to industries that damage native forests or produce
greenhouse emissions. Old parties vote against the amendments.
· Democrats propose amendments to tax bill, which would
make public transport eligible to receive fringe benefit tax
breaks. Old parties vote against the amendments.
· Democrats' call for radiation levels in cell phones
to be disclosed finally acted on by Government.
· Democrat resolution calling for rehabilitation talks
to commence immediately in relation to Jabiluka passed by
· Democrats secure amendments ensuring greater protection
for Sydney Harbour foreshore.
· Government heeds Democrat call to declare seismic
testing in Great Barrier Reef as controlled action.
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