August 1st 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY A win for families! UN resolution protecting families a victory for sanity

Magna Carta understood as its drafter intended it to be

CANBERRA OBSERVED Media in a tailspin over Bishop and choppergate

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Shorten weakened by royal commission appearance

EDITORIAL Another scare to fuel global warming alarmism

ECONOMICS Bank of England puts orthodox theory to the test

HISTORY High tide of Dutch rule in Indonesia recedes

SOCIETY Justice Kennedy and the lonely Promethean liberal

HISTORY Glastonbury and the twice-flowering thorn

PUBLIC HEALTH Are we giving hard drugs too soft a ride?

CINEMA The outsider who renews the news of relationship: WALL-E

BOOK REVIEW Where have all the believers gone?

BOOK REVIEW What the Nazis did not know did not hurt her


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win for families! UN resolution protecting families a victory for sanity

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, August 1, 2015

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution calling for protection for the family, because of its fundamental importance to human existence and society.

The resolution, which passed by a comfortable margin of 29 votes to 14 (with four abstentions), went almost unreported in the Australian press.

It reaffirmed that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and entitled to protection by society and the state” and urged member states “to create a conducive environment to strengthen and support all families”.

The resolution “recognis[ed] the potential of the family to contribute to national development and to the achievement of major objectives of every society … including the eradication of poverty and the creation of just, stable and secure societies.”

It also stated it was “Conscious that the majority of the internationally agreed development goals, especially those relating to the reduction of poverty, education of children and the reduction of maternal mortality, would be difficult to attain unless the strategies to achieve them focus on the family, which can contribute positively to … eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.” [1]

The UN Family Rights caucus played a significant role in having the resolution adopted. It was supported by many counties that are home to a majority of the world’s population: in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America; while it was opposed by US and European nations.

So, why did Australia refuse to support it?

What was the problem with recognising the right of the family to support to help eradicate poverty and hunger, deliver universal primary education and improve health?

 Australia, not being a member of the Human Rights Council, did not vote on the resolution but went further and refused to support or to co-sponsor it. The United States, which voted with the minority against the resolution, made a general comment on behalf of Australia and Canada that: “The text failed to recognise the diversity of families, and the primacy of the human rights of family members.” [2]

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told The Weekend Australian on July 17–18 [3] that Australia refused to support or co-sponsor the resolution because “it sought to ascribe human rights to the family unit” and that “human rights belong to individuals, not groups”.

Family membership protects and provides for individuals, in particular children, the sick and the elderly. If families are not supported to provide for the needs of family members then that would leave the state as the provider of essential services for all its citizens. Individual human rights would then depend on what the state could afford to provide.

The domestic economy of the family is very much more efficient at providing for its members, sharing assets and income and distributing according to need. It is gravely concerning that Australia chose not to support the resolution, thereby, by implication rejecting the positive value of supporting the family to provide for and protect its members.

Ms Bishop was also reported as saying that the resolution “failed to acknowledge that serious human rights abuses can occur within the family unit”. In fact the resolution did acknowledge “that violations and abuses of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of family members adversely affect families and have a negative impact on efforts aimed at protecting the family”. However it “Recognise[d] the positive impact that policies and measures to protect the family can have on protecting and promoting the human rights of its members”. [4]

Ms Bishop also said Australia opposed the resolution as it failed to “recognise the diversity of family units, including same-sex families, extended indigenous kinship structures and single-parent families”. [5]

But single-income families and “extended indigenous kinship structures” (intergenerational households of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and older siblings) are recognised in the resolution. It notes that “single-headed households and intergenerational house­holds” are particularly vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion. It resolves to pay particular attention to family units headed by women, “bearing in mind that a considerable proportion of households worldwide are headed by women or dependent on female income” and that these households are “often among the poorest because of wage discrimination, occupational segregation patterns in the labour market and other gender-based barriers”. [6]

That leaves “same-sex families”. The countries that voted against the resolution were mainly developed nations whose prioritising of individual rights, GLBT issues and same-sex marriage appear to have led them to oppose a resolution to support the family to help achieve the universal goals of eradicating poverty and delivering education, health care and income to the poorest and most vulnerable people.

LGBT and sexual rights groups predictably condemned the resolution.

The resolution, which was first passed two years ago [7] and has now been reinforced with obviously plenty of time for consultation, discussion and debate, is a major victory for the family.


[1] see Human Rights Council adopts texts on enhancing the efficiency of the Council, Rohingya Muslims, the protection of the family, and Ukraine

[2] op cit

[3] Julie Bishop makes stand for same-sex families

[4] op cit

[5] op cit

[6] op cit

[7] Sex activists bemoan passage of pro-family resolution at UN in Geneva

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