On September 13, 2007, at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, Australia together with the United States of America, New Zealand and Canada voted against the acceptance of a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
A majority 134 countries supported the Declaration while 11 countries abstained from voting. These countries were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Samoa and Ukraine.
There are 192 members of the United Nations, which tends to indicate the 43 countries for one reason or another just didn’t attend. It would be interesting to know which countries these were. The Declaration had been before the Assembly for more than 20 years and as the former director of the Inter-American Indigenous Institute said, "Many governments signed it as a formality, just to get it out of the way".
Treaties mean different things for different countries and some countries take them more seriously than others. It is the responsibility of each and every government member of the United Nations to vote against any treaty, declaration, and proposal or otherwise that would be detrimental to the national interests of their country and to be up front about it as the four dissenting countries in this case were.
A copy of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is readily available online and if net access is unavailable to you then ask your local parliamentary member to print you off a copy. It’s a public document and they should be only too pleased to help. Everyone should read the Declaration before coming to a decision on it, as it is not a difficult document to read. It is probably one of the most important documents you will ever read.
There is little doubt that the majority of people reading the Declaration will come to the conclusion that it is definitely not in Australia’s interest as it only has the potential to unnecessarily intrude into and disrupt what is, after all, a delicate internal issue.
Without question it gives encouragement to divide the nation along racial lines and in doing so protect all those things that are so abhorrent to the majority populations in any number of countries, and override what has become generally accepted decent standards of behaviour.
It gives the potential for the Parliament to be overridden or neutered on serious moral reform and rights issues and introduces yet another level of laws, something we don’t really need. In doing so it could over ride the interests in the rights of the majority of the people and at the same time disadvantage already stressed groups such as women and children within Indigenous communities.
The claim is made that the Declaration is non-binding and is only an “in-principle” document. For a country such as Australia, which has a good record of respect for United Nations decisions, nothing could be further from the practical truth. Experience has shown us that there is a regular line of progression from “in principle” to “persuasive” and finally to “authoritative”.
The New Zealand Government is aware of this and has simply stated that, “… the UN Declaration was incompatible with New Zealand law”. End of Story!
The interesting side issue to this disastrous Declaration is that up until the point of acceptance of the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly the matter was a bipartisan issue in Australia. Both Labor and Liberal agreed that the Declaration should not be agreed to.
The dangers were apparently there for all to see. Now that Australia has properly registered its dissenting vote at the United Nations, the Labor Opposition has had a worrying change of heart, which gives the impression that they are no longer opposed to the Declaration.
Presumably, if elected to power, they would ratify the Declaration on Australia’s behalf and this is the reason why it should be compulsory reading for everyone.
If the Labor Opposition is doing this simply for political reasons in a pre-election stunt, they have embarked on a dangerous mission. On this issue the Howard Federal Government is to be complimented on its protection of our national integrity, as in fact should be the New Zealand Labor Government.
This issue is much bigger than the “stolen generation”, plus the Wik and the Mabo cases put together and, is an issue of national importance given the total breakdown of law and order in some Cape York Aboriginal communities.