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Govt defends human rights record to UN

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 22 March 2005

The Federal Government says it is not dragging its heels on human rights.

The comments come in response to a "please explain" request from a United Nations Committee assessing Australia's progress on racial discrimination.

In Geneva earlier this month, Australia was questioned about the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), the Native Title Act and changes to the Human Rights Commission.

The UN Committee on Racial Discrimination has given the Australian Government a year to explain parts of its Geneva response.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs - the key agency co-ordinating Australia's report - says Australia has not breached the UN convention regarding racial discrimination.

In a written statement, the spokesman says ATSIC was not a effective voice for Aboriginal people, as shown by its poor voter turnout.

He also says the Government remains committed to reconciliation.

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