31 May 2003

audio link to the Deane speech

Former Governor-General Sir William Deane has launched a scathing attack on the Federal Government in a speech at the University of Queensland.

Sir William was speaking after receiving an honorary doctorate at UQ's Faculty of Business, Economics and Law.

He criticised the Government over the "children overboard" affair and the holding of minors at the Woomera detention centre. He said future leaders should avoid seeking advantage by "inflaming ugly prejudice and intolerance".

Sir William also criticised the Government for its approach towards the two Australian men being held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"The fundamental responsibility of a democratic government to seek to safeguard the human rights of all its citizens, including the unpopular and the alleged wrongdoer, in the case of two Australians indefinitely caged without legal charge or process," he said.

Sir William, who was Australia?s 22nd Governor-General from 1996 to 2001, was presented with a Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of his distinguished career and his outstanding contribution to Australia in his role as Governor-General.

Prime Minister John Howard rejected any suggestion that the Government inflames prejudice.

About the only thing to be said in defence of the policy of despair is that Labor is also in this muck up to the armpits. Let us not forget that Labor supported the Border Protection Act 2001 which violates both Australia's obligations at international law and our commitment to human rights.

One reason I believe we need an enforceable bill of rights is that somehow Parliament keeps forgetting that there are absolute standards which should not be breached.

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