Monday, 9 December 2013
Statements by Members
Human Rights Day
On 10 December 1950, the United Nations General Assembly, presided over by Australia's then foreign affairs minister, Doc Evatt, as president, proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day to bring to the attention of the peoples of the world the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations.
It is pertinent to reflect on Human Rights Day tomorrow as we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, who devoted his life to the promotion of human rights, to the elimination of racial discrimination and to the affirming of every human being's right to live with dignity. I will speak further about Nelson Mandela in the condolence motion, but I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the wonderful Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who passed away on 30 August this year. On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2008, Seamus wrote a beautiful essay called 'The redress of poetry', in which he observed that, in an unbalanced society, the UDHR adds weight to the lighter side of the scale and contributes to the maintenance of equilibrium—never entirely achieved—between the rights and the wrongs.
I am proud of the human rights achievements of the former Labor government that have contributed to the lighter side of the scale, including, just to name a few, establishing the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, establishing the National Children's Commissioner, legislation to prevent the reintroduction of the death penalty, removing discrimination against same-sex couples in more than 80 Commonwealth laws, endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its optional protocol. (Time expired)