House of Representatives Committees


Chair’s Foreword
Membership of the Committee – 41st Parliament
Membership of the Human Rights Sub-Committee – 41 st Parliament
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations

Chair’s Foreword

On 14 - 16 September 2005 , more than 170 Heads of State and Government will gather at the United Nations (UN) in New York for the 2005 World Summit. Leaders will review progress made since the UN Millennium Declaration adopted by all member states in 2000.

The agenda will be based on the UN Secretary-General’s report In Larger Freedom which focuses on strengthening the three central pillars of the United Nations: development; security, and human rights. The report contains a number of proposals for reforming elements of the UN’s human rights machinery, including replacing the Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council.

It is in this context that the Committee decided to convene a public hearing, to discuss the current human rights reform agenda and to hear the views for and against the establishment of a Human Rights Council.

The Committee invited a broad range of witnesses from the Australian community to participate in its roundtable discussions. Participants included UN representatives, non government organisations (NGOs), and human rights and legal experts, from Canberra and inter-state.

The Committee was pleased with the level of interest that the inquiry generated. Many witnesses commented on how important it was for these topics to be debated in the Parliament and that they appreciated the opportunity to address them in this forum. The Committee certainly found the discussions engaging and hopes that the hearing and this report can contribute to informed debate on UN reform, both within the Parliament and in the wider Australian community.

At this stage, it is difficult for the Committee to comment on the suitability of the Human Rights Council proposal. Details remain vague for the implementation of the proposal and views are varied. Nonetheless, the Committee will follow the outcomes of the September summit with interest. Irrespective of whether member states adopt the Human Rights Council proposal at the summit, the Committee wishes to see this important human rights body continue to function in a strengthened rather than weakened form.

In conclusion, and on behalf of the Committee, I would like to extend my appreciation to all those who contributed to the inquiry - witnesses, officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and secretariat staff.


Senator M A Payne


Human Rights Sub-Committee

Membership of the Committee – 41 st Parliament


Senator A B Ferguson


Deputy Chair

Hon G J Edwards, MP



Senator the Hon N Bolkus (to 23/06/05 )

Mr M Danby, MP


Senator G Campbell (from 23/06/05 )

Mrs T Draper, MP


Senator the Hon P Cook (to 30/06/05 )

Mrs J Gash, MP


Senator A Eggleston

Mr S W Gibbons, MP


Senator B Harradine (to 30/06/05 )

Mr B W Haase, MP


Senator S Hutchins

Mr M J Hatton, MP


Senator D Johnston

Hon D F Jull, MP


Senator L J Kirk

Hon J E Moylan, MP


Senator K Lundy (to 23/06/05 )

Hon G D Prosser, MP


Senator C M Moore (from 23/06/05 )

Hon B C Scott, MP


Senator M A Payne

Mr R C G Sercombe, MP


Senator N Scullion (from 17/08/05 )

Mr C P Thompson, MP


Senator N Stott Despoja

Mr M B Turnball, MP


Senator R S Webber (from 23/06/05 )

Ms M Vamvakinou, MP


Hon B G Baird, MP

Mr B H Wakelin, MP


Mr P A Barresi, MP

Mr K W Wilkie, MP





Dr Margot Kerley


Membership of the Human Rights Sub-Committee – 41 st Parliament


Senator M A Payne


Deputy Chair

Senator the Hon N Bolkus, MP (to 30/07/05 )

Ms M Vamvakinou, MP (from 10/08/05 )


Senator George Campbell (from 23 June 2005 )

Hon B G Baird, MP


Senator A B Ferguson(ex-officio)

Mr M Danby, MP


Senator B Harradine (to 30/07/05 )

Hon G J Edwards, MP (ex-officio)


Senator L Kirk

Mr R C G Sercombe, MP


Senator C M Moore (from 23 June 2005 )

Mr C P Thompson, MP


Senator N Stott Despoja


Committee Secretariat


Dr Margot Kerley

Secretary to Human Rights Sub-Committee

Dr Kate Burton

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Sara Edson

Administrative Officer

Mrs Jessica Butler

Terms of reference

Pursuant to paragraph 1 (b) of its resolution of appointment, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is empowered to consider and report on the annual reports of government agencies, in accordance with a schedule presented by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

On 12 May 2005 the Human Rights Sub- Committee resolved to examine the 2003-2004 annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, focusing specifically on reform of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

List of abbreviations


Australian Council for International Development


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Convention Against Torture


Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women


Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


Commission on Human Rights


Convention on the Rights of the Child


Economic and Social Council


Government Sponsored Non-Government Organisation


Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission


International Commission of Jurists


Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade


Non-Government Organisation


Permanent Five Members of the Security Council


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


United Nations


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


United Nations Information Centre

List of recommendations

2 Issues and Conclusions

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Department of Foreign Affairs provide it with a briefing on the outcomes of the United Nations September summit, with particular regard to issues surrounding reform of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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