As a nation, Australia has a long standing commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of, and equal opportunities for, people with disabilities.
Domestically, we have a world class regimen of legislation, policies, programs and services to maximise the participation in the wider community of people with disabilities. Internationally, we have had long-standing involvement with significant processes promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
Australia is committed to participating actively in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee in its consideration of proposals for an effective and efficient international instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.
Australia believes that it is vital that people with disabilities themselves are an active part of this important process - both domestically and at the international level. Australia is pleased to include in its delegation members with disabilities - members of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and of the Australian disability community.
Australia believes that full and informed participation by member States in this process presents an ideal opportunity to ensure the most effective and appropriate protection for people with disabilities.
Australia believes that there are several fundamental principles which should be borne in mind by delegates and the Ad Hoc Committee in considering any proposals for the development of a new instrument.
In Australia, significant work has been undertaken towards ensuring that people with disabilities are empowered as much as possible to participate in the wider community and to access mainstream policies, programs and services. We have made significant advances in recent years towards creating and sustaining an environment which is broadly accessible to people with disabilities.
Consistent with this inclusive approach, Australia believes that specific efforts should be made to ensure that existing human rights protection provided to people with disabilities is fully recognised and clarified.
Australia is firmly of the view that any new instrument should not duplicate existing human rights protection found in other instruments.
Rather, our negotiations and discussions here in New York should seek ways to clarify the extent to which the rights and dignity of people with disabilities are promoted and protected in existing instruments and to seek to close identified gaps.
Accordingly, Australia believes that an important aspect of this Committee's work is an assessment of existing human rights instruments to determine to what extent they defend the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in an integrated and comprehensive manner.
This Committee has an important opportunity to identify proposals that will advance the position of people with disabilities and address the significant disadvantages that they too often face. In doing so, Australia believes the Committee must consider carefully what form of instrument will best achieve these objectives.
Australia believes resolutely that any new instrument should be both effective and efficient.
It may be the case that, rather than a free-standing new convention, a protocol or annex to one of the existing core human rights treaties would provide more effective protection.
This could be an effective way to 'close gaps' in existing instruments and would avoid the duplication of existing rights and a proliferation of additional reporting mechanisms.
For maximum efficiency, any treaty body involvement under a new instrument must embody best practice principles, incorporating, for example, streamlined reporting requirements and improved rules of procedure.
This is an important opportunity for States to develop an appropriate and effective framework for the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. Australia looks forward to advancing these important matters through constructive and balanced dialogue.
17 June 2003