Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Brennan to head human rights consultation

Professor of law Jesuit priest and lawyer Frank Brennan, committed long-term fence sitter".

The Federal Government will appoint a four-member panel, headed by Jesuit priest and lawyer Frank Brennan, to consult with the public on strengthening human rights laws in Australia - including through a charter of rights.

Speaking on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last night, Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced the Government's decision in his address to the Evatt Foundation at the University of Sydney.

Mr McClelland will officially announce this morning that Father Brennan will head the panel which he says will consider a wide range of human rights issues, including whether Australia should have a bill of rights.

"I expect there will be robust discussion on a broad range of possibilities," he said.

"Some will be in favour of change, some will be in favour of the status quo, some will suggest other enhancements.

"Whatever views are out there, I think it's paramount that the consultation hears from as many Australians as possible, with attitudes and views right across the country and right across the spectrum."

Father Brennan is a professor of law at the Australian Catholic University.

Father Brennan said in a speech earlier this year he was a "committed long-term fence sitter" on whether Australia should have a bill of rights and whether it should be included in the constitution.

The Government is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council and Mr McClelland says the Government is committed to improving human rights in Australia and further strengthening its relationship with the United Nations.

"We acknowledge that the United Nations is not perfect," he said.

"However, we see absolutely no value in sniping at international institutions from the spectator stands."

The Government is also planning to sign up to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Mr McClelland says it may also introduce anti-torture legislation.

"Given the nature of torture we are considering an offence of extra-territorial application, consistent with the treatment of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under domestic law," he said.

"Within Australia and internationally we are working to help eliminate the use of torture, wherever it occurs and whoever commits it."

Updated: 11:14am (AEDT)

McClelland names human rights consultation panel

Former television news presenter Mary Kostakidis, barrister Tammy Williams and former AFP commissioner Mick Palmer will join Jesuit priest Frank Brennan on a Government consultation panel on whether the country needs a charter of rights.

The panel, announced by Attorney-General Robert McClelland, will advise the Government on the [alleged] community's views on Australia's human rights policies and laws.

Mary Kostakidis used to present SBS television news and has worked with the Drug and Alcohol Council of Australia and is on the board of the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Tammy Williams is a Queensland barrister who is a director on the Board of Indigenous Enterprise Partnerships.

Mick Palmer served for seven years as Australian Federal Police Commissioner and also oversaw the inquiry into the case of Cornelia Rau, who was wrongly held in immigration in 2004.

Quote: Talk about a one sided selection of religious right wing fanatics from the ruling class, hey, what about peasants? Don't they rate?


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