March 11th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL - WhatÂ’s wrong with AustraliaÂ’s defence?

Has Beazley got the "ticker" for a tough line on GST?

AS THE WORLD TURNS - Virtue: private and public

COVER STORY - People on the move: vexed question for government, nation

BOOKS: The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, by Richard Sennett

NATIONAL AFFAIRS - DemocratÂ’s "genocide" bill could put almost everyone in prison

NATIONAL AFFAIRS - Borrowed money, borrowed time

ECONOMICS - WTO stumbles as Third World rebels

COMMENT - Should homosexual couples have access to IVF services?

VICTORIA - Return of the Rust Bucket state?

IRIAN JAYA - Can Indonesia head off push for Papuan independence?

MEDICINE - Medical Journal has no space for criticism of Hepatitis C report

HISTORY: When, where and why 85 million people died

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DemocratÂ’s "genocide" bill could put almost everyone in prison

by Richard Egan

News Weekly, March 11, 2000
On October 13, 1999, Western Australian Democrat and erstwhile homosexual rights activist, Senator Brian Greig, gave the second reading speech on his Anti-Genocide Bill 1999.

The bill seeks to amend the Genocide Convention Act 1949 by expanding the definition of genocide and by providing specific penalties for genocide offences.

The 1949 Act operated solely to give parliamentary approval to the Federal Government to ratify the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In the wake of the horrific crimes against humanity carried out under the Nazi régime, there was universal support for proscribing genocide.

However, the Federal Parliament evidently saw no necessity to enact specific genocide offences in Australian law. Presumably they believed genocide was unthinkable in Australia and, in any case, was adequately covered by the regular criminal code offences of murder, etc.

The expanded definition of genocide proposed by Senator Greig goes well beyond that in the Convention on Genocide. The Convention defines genocide as being certain acts "committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".

Greig stretches this to include such acts "committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a distinct group of people including, but not limited to, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, or a group based on gender, sexuality, political affiliation or disability."

This definition moves well away from the concept of genocide as murder of a whole people.

Insofar as Greig's definition goes beyond that of the Convention it is doubtful whether the Federal Parliament has the constitutional right to pass such a law as it would depend on the external affairs power and therefore be limited to the scope of the Convention.

The acts included in the genocide definition, both in the Convention and in Greig's bill, include, as well as killing and inflicting serious bodily or mental harm, "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group" and "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

This latter is a vexed question in regard to the so-called "stolen generation" of Aboriginal children. Aboriginal rights activists have not been slow to accuse Australia of genocide in international circles while the first Federal Court cases initiated by members of this "generation" are revealing that some children, at least, were removed in good faith for their own protection.

Under Greig's bill those who implemented this policy could be liable for life imprisonment. This would certainly heighten the social tension over the issue.

Life imprisonment could also be imposed on those who seek to prevent births to lesbians or homosexual men by denying them access to reproductive technology, surrogacy and adoption.

Senator Greig's bill has been referred to a Senate committee for consideration. It is due to report back to the Senate on June 30, 2000.

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