CANBERRA: Extract from evidence given by The Hon. Catherine Branson QC, President, Australian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Commissioner pp 18-20
Senator BARNETT—...Ms Branson, at the time you described the outcomes document from the Durban II conference as one ‘which we have applauded the contents of’. You put that on the record on 25 May. Do you recall that?
Ms Branson—I do.
Senator BARNETT—The outcomes document opens with an explicit reaffirmation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action as it was adopted in 2001, and it said it:
Reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action … as it was adopted at the World Conference in 2001.
It was precisely the likelihood that the Durban Review Conference would reaffirm the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action in its entirety that was the major concern of the Australian government, which led to the government boycotting the conference. That was set out in the Hon. Stephen Smith’s media release of 19 April 2009. Do you recall that, Ms Branson?
Senator BARNETT—He said at the time:
Australia, however, cannot support a document which reaffirms the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action in its entirety—as is currently the case. The 2001 Declaration singled out Israel and the Middle East. Australia expressed strong concerns about this at the time. The Australian Government continues to have these concerns. [see the Background Briefing below - SL]
So my question for you, Ms Branson, is: do you disagree with the view of the Australian government that the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action unacceptably singled out Israel and the Middle East?
Ms Branson—The commission does not read the original document in the same way as the minister apparently does. We did not see it in the same way as is expressed in the statement you have just read to us.
Senator BARNETT—Let me ask you another question. Do you disagree with the Australian government’s concern that the Durban Review Conference was likely to—and, in the event, did—reaffirm the Durban Declaration and Program of Action in its entirety? Do you stand by your view that the outcomes document of the Durban Review Conference is deserving of applause by the Australian Human Rights Commission?
Ms Branson—I stand by the latter statement.
Senator BARNETT—That you applaud the outcome?
Senator BARNETT—That seems to be in direct contradiction to the views of Minister Stephen Smith.
Ms Branson—I regret that.
Senator BARNETT—You regret that, do you, Ms Branson?
Senator BARNETT—Have you expressed your views to the minister?
Senator BARNETT—Have you had any communications with the minister since we had this discussion in May?
Senator BARNETT—What about with the Attorney-General or with any other government official?
Ms Branson—On this topic? No.
Senator BARNETT—So do you see any reason for a parliamentary committee such as ours, or members of parliament, to be concerned that you have a view which is diametrically opposed to the minister’s? He stands up and expresses concern that there should be a boycott of this conference because of his concerns about racism, as it were, and views expressed—antagonism against Israel in particular—yet you have a view that, in fact, applauds the outcome of the document, which he totally opposes.
Ms Branson—I am not sure that I can answer the question which I think you have put to me. The Australian Human Rights Commission does not accept that the Durban outcomes document did attack Israel or that it supported anti-Semitism. We do not read it that way.
Senator BARNETT—Do you read Durban I as anti-Semitic and to be condemned?
Ms Branson—We do not read the Durban outcomes document as anti-Semitic. If we did, we would condemn it. We do not so read it.
Senator BARNETT—Durban I and Durban II?
Ms Branson—Durban I and Durban II.
...Ms Branson—We do not believe anti-Semitism was expressed in either document. The commission is strongly opposed to anti-Semitism, as it is to all forms of discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.
Senator BARNETT—Does the commission, in hindsight, have a view of the speech of the President of Iran at that time? That was a conference which—
Ms Branson—The commission has not considered the speech of the President of Iran.
Senator BARNETT—... Surely the commission has a view.
Ms Branson—The topic has not come before the commission on any commission agenda.
Senator BARNETT—You are advising this committee ...notwithstanding the cost of sending the commissioner and an officer and being fully aware of the publicity, the government’s media release, the boycott of the conference by the government and the speech from the President of Iran, which was condemned all around the world—not only that the commission is not willing to condemn it but that you are willing to say that you applaud the outcome of that conference. Is that correct?
Ms Branson ... We have not considered it necessary to put on the commission’s agenda the subject matter of the speech of the President of Iran, whose views we do not regard as helpful in this area.
Senator BARNETT—Is that the best you can do, Ms Branson?
Ms Branson—That is my answer.
Senator BARNETT—That the views of the President of Iran are not helpful in this area? That is the public contribution that you have made in response to the views—
...Senator Wong...I think everyone in this room would have the same views—about the unacceptability of any form of xenophobia, including anti-Semitism....
Senator BARNETT—Minister, would you care to make a contribution? A taxpayer funded entity, the Australian Human Rights Commission, has applauded the outcome Durban I and Durban II and sent its officials to the Durban II conference notwithstanding that the Australian government boycotted it and Mr Stephen Smith has put his views on the public record on behalf of the government. Do you have any concerns about this dichotomy?
Senator Wong—As you are aware, the commission is independent. I am advised that the decision for Mr Calma to attend was a decision of the commission and the Australian government’s position is that as outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Senator BARNETT—Minister, please. Do you have any concerns that there is a diametrically opposed view held by the commission with respect to important matters, particularly with respect to the state of Israel and the views of the government?
Senator Wong—The Australian government’s position on the state of Israel and on the conduct of the Durban conference are as outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and you are aware of those views because you have referred to them today in your questions.
Senator BARNETT—In light of the time we will move to the next topic but, Ms Branson, I advise you that I consider this incredibly important and serious. I am deeply disturbed that the commission applauds both Durban I and Durban II notwithstanding the views of the Australian government which you are fully aware of.
******BACKGROUND BRIEFING *******
From the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, No. 71, 1 August 2008 / 29 Tammuz 5768, by Alfred H. Moses:
- The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban in 2001 quickly became a new form of Passion Play with the Palestinian people as the victim and the Jewish state of Israel as the crucifier. Much of the hatred took place in a six-day NGO Forum in a large cricket stadium attended by six thousand representatives of close to two thousand NGOs. It was anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli from start to finish.
- In a sense, Durban was African "payback time." By and large Durban was Black Africa speaking, led by the Republic of South Africa. However, missing from Durban was any acknowledgment of the ills Africa visited upon itself since the end of colonialism and continues to inflict on its people seven years after Durban, as witnessed in savage attacks against immigrants/refugees in Johannesburg in spring 2008.
- There can be no repeat of the anti-Semitism displayed at Durban. It has no place anywhere, but most certainly not at a follow-up conference to combat racism and intolerance. This message has to be delivered forcefully, not only to Europe and elsewhere but also to the conference's chief sponsors in Africa who have the greatest stake in the outcome of the Durban process. The same message needs to be conveyed to the Muslim world.
- It is imperative to prevent the repetition of the poisonous vapors of anti-Semitism emitted on the eve of Durban I. Similarly there can be no linking of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with racism.
Follow the link to read the full paper.And from Newsmax.com, Monday, March 9, 2009, by: James H. Walsh:
Durban Conference Caters to Terrorists
...In 1997, the U.N. General Assembly agreed to hold a World Conference in Durban, South Africa, to seek the eradication of world racism, discrimination, and intolerance. This World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance was to determine the causes, sources, forms, and manifestations of these ills as well as to identify victims and measures of prevention, education, and eradication of these ills.
... Noble goals all, but with 57 Muslim nations wielding the power of the agenda, Durban I soon ignited into a conflagration of goodwill, ecumenism, fairness, and justice leaving behind a heap of bitter ashes.
...The United States and Israel left after four days of Durban I, with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell leading the walkout and noting that it was merely a “hate” conference.
...Canada had stayed at Durban, trying to bring some rational thinking to the mob mentality of a “get-even” psychosis infecting developing nations who believe themselves poor and underprivileged because of the Western developed world.
Also seeking their portion of the “get-even” pie were Muslim nations downplaying decades of Islamic terrorism to claim that they too were mistreated by the West. Durban I was an attack-fest upon “infidel” nations by Muslim nations that pride themselves as independent yet seek legitimacy through victimization.
The main thrusts of the Durban I documents were as follows: victimization of Palestinians by Israelis dating from al Naqba-Day of the Catastrophe (the Creation of Israel); an assertion that the United States and Europe must accept and atone (through reparations) for the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and the equating of any criticism of Islam to “racism” (especially any Western designation of Islamic freedom fighters as terrorists).
Durban I equated any criticism of Islam or its acts to “Islamophobia” and thus to “racism.”
The documents sought to criminalize any statements about Islam, at the same time encouraging open assailment of other religions by Muslims around the world.
Durban I was an embarrassment to the UN and to the civilized world. An estimated 6,000 representatives of some 2,000 UN-selected non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had their expenses paid by the U.N.
...Well-represented among the NGO delegates at Durban I were radical leftists, anarchists, and Muslims. Their condemnation of colonialism managed to omit Russia’s recent incursions into Eastern European countries including Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia.
They also omitted China’s control of Tibet.
No mention was made of the decades of Islamic terrorist/suicide bombers and the killing of innocent men, women, and children in Israel and around the world. No mention was made of the persecution and killings of Christians and other non-Muslims in Muslim nations, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Kosovo (UN-created entity), Nigeria, Pakistan, and Sudan. No mention was made of free speech, only condemnation of “hate” speech, defined as any words that may be interpreted as critical of Islam.
No mention was made of violations of the human rights of Christians by Muslim governments. The African nations chose to forget that it was the losing warriors in African tribal wars that were sold into slavery — a market managed not by Europeans and Americans but by Arabs and Africans. Although African nations wanted to include in the Durban I documents their demand for reparations, the measure was defeated by European delegates.
In 2006, a resolution by the U.N. Human Rights Council reiterated its acceptance of the Durban I documents (Declaration and Program of Action). The Council called for a Durban II conference to come up with concrete measures to implement the 72-page document with its 473 vitriolic paragraphs — largely unread by Durban I delegates....