Susan Austin, Hobart
The nationwide Human Rights Act Campaign, initiated by the New Matilda online magazine, was launched in Hobart on February 4 with a rally at the Parliament Lawns.
Speakers included Margaret Reynolds, president of the United Nations Association of Australia; Greg Barns, chairperson of the Australian Republican Movement from 1999-2002 and Hobart Mercury columnist; federal Labor MP Duncan Kerr; and Susan Ryan, chairperson of the New Matilda Human Rights Act Campaign Committee and a former Labor federal minister.
The launch was followed by a public forum in the Hobart Town Hall, addressed by gay-rights activist Rodney Croome, Tasmanian Aboriginal spokeperson Trudy Mulga, Amnesty International Australia vice-president Alison Wiss and
Tasmanian Supreme Court judge Pierre Slicer.
Several speakers pointed out the importance of a bill of rights, but expressed concern that the proposed bill ignored the rights of a number of oppressed social groups. Croome pointed out that "gender identity isn't included in the clause guaranteeing equality before the law. Sexual orientation is, but that's not adequate or appropriate to protect gender minorities."
Speaking from the floor, Matthew Holloway, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Franklin, highlighted the importance of a bill of rights when "Australians currently face major attacks on our rights through the Howard government's anti-terror and industrial relations reforms". He also argued for clauses to be included to protect prisoners from abuse, pointing to the human rights abuses exposed at Risdon prison.
From Green Left Weekly, February 22, 2006.
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