On June 25 the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report on Australia’s Role in United Nations Reform. Together with ALP and Australian Democrats representatives, Liberal committee members Bruce Baird, Chris Pyne, Judi Moylan and Marise Payne endorsed a majority report which was both dismissive of the large number of submissions to the committee expressing criticism and disillusionment with the United Nations, and impatient with the Howard Government’s displeasure with the human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
The majority report did reject calls for a United Nations Standing Army but called for more funding of the United Nations, especially of the human rights committees, and for Australia to ratify both the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The Howard Government announced in August 2000 that it would not ratify the Optional Protocol until the human rights committee system was reformed. The Protocol would allow individuals within Australia to complain directly to the United Nations committee responsible for monitoring compliance with CEDAW.
In a dissenting report the remaining 12 Liberal and National Party members of the committee opposed ratification of the Protocol, noting the monitoring committee’s reputation for political bias and commenting that “if Australia were to sign and ratify the optional protocol it is not unreasonable to imagine Australia generating more individual complaints than a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This is an unacceptable situation and would lead to loss of confidence in the UN Human Rights System as a whole”.
In a thoroughly documented dissenting report Senator Brian Harradine detailed how the CEDAW Committee has been pursuing an ideological approach hostile to pro-life and family values which has no authentic basis in CEDAW itself.
Examples abound. The Committee has ticked off Belarus for introducing Mother’s Day and a Mothers’ Award; Croatia for legislative protection relating to maternity; Belize for a mixed Church-State education system; Mexico for the lack of access to “easy and swift abortion”; the United Kingdom for failing to impose the Abortion Act 1967 on an unwilling Northern Ireland; Ireland for failing to promote condoms and other contraceptives for teenagers and for its restrictive abortion laws; and Italy and Croatia for allowing conscientious objection to involvement in abortion services by doctors and hospital personnel. “The Committee considers [such conscientious objection] to be an infringement of human rights.”
The Committee has consistently shown a virtual obsession with the alleged right to abortion and contraception while ignoring the fundamental health needs of women in developing countries. For example, in February 1999 when Colombia was still reeling from a disastrous earthquake on top of internal war and endemic drug-trafficking, the CEDAW Committee was rebuking the Colombian Government for only budgeting one million pesos for its National Office for Equity for Women and for maintaining the legal prohibition on abortion. The Committee showed no interest in the needs of Colombian women for safe water supply, shelter, sanitation, basic medicines and food.
To allow appeals by individual Australian women to such an ideologically-driven CEDAW Committee would simply invite an all-out radical feminist, pro-abortion campaign against the Australian Government.
Senator Harradine’s dissenting report also highlighted the abuses of human rights carried out internationally by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) including its involvement with countries such as China with its program of forced abortion and sterilisation and Serbia with its ethnic cleansing by sterilisation and abortion of Kosovar women.
The UNFPA is continuing to operate on the wildly mistaken notion that there is an imminent population explosion despite the more sober and reliable estimates from the UN’s demographic experts in the Population Division of the UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs, that world population will peak at 7.47 billion in about 2040 and from 2050 decline by over 25 per cent per generation.
In a further dissenting report four Coalition members – Liberals, Geoff Prosser, Andrew Southcott and Andrew Thomson as well as De-Anne Kelly from the National Party – opposed ratification of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Thomson is Chairman, and Kelly a member, of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which is independently considering whether it is in Australia’s interest to ratify the ICC Statute.
In defiance of Attorney General Daryl Williams and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer – who have hailed the ICC as a great gift to international peace and poured scorn on all critics of the ICC as “misinformed” – the four dissenters expressed profound concern that the judicial power to be exercised by the ICC will effectively represent a power to override decisions of the High Court of Australia:
“Ratifying the ICC represents a surprising excursion into law making based on notions outside the normal constitutional arrangement, as reflected in Chapter III of the Constitution.
“This profound shift in the operation of our domestic court system requires long debate before any such move could be contemplated.”
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is still awaiting promised draft legislation from the Attorney-General before concluding its inquiry into the ICC.
The draft legislation would enact the provisions of the Rome Statute into domestic Australian criminal law in an effort to prevent the ICC exercising jurisdiction over Australian cases.
However, there are considerable concerns about the loose definitions in the Statute of crimes such as genocide “by causing serious mental harm” and persecution by “serious denial of fundamental human rights recognised in international law”.
The latter definition, if enacted into Australian criminal law, would create a funnel by which all future developments of new “rights” in international law would automatically be incorporated into Australian law with no need for approval either by the Executive or the Parliament.
It seems unlikely in an election year that the Howard Government would be so foolish as to ratify this Statute, which would be seen by many already disillusioned supporters as a surrender of Australian sovereignty.
Nothing could be better chosen to increase the desertion of Coalition voters to One Nation and independents.