By Jordan Fermanis
Speaking at an Amnesty International event at the Waverley Library on Tuesday 6 September, Former Justice High Court Judge Michael Kirby addressed a number of issues relating to human rights. In 2013, Mr Kirby was appointed by the United Nations to lead an inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea which reported back the following year.
The event was hosted by Randwick Amnesty International which was set up three years ago.The event was part of the ‘Living Library’ segment which the organisation was running for a fifth time.
As an openly gay man, Mr Kirby has been outspoken on his belief that a plebiscite on marriage equality is not within Parliament’s legal powers.
In his speech, Mr Kirby addressed human rights issues Australia faced including: Indigenous Australians, Asian immigrants to Australia, gender equality and refugees and asylum seekers.
Mr Kirby left LGBTQIA to last where he declared this was the minority to which he belonged.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is committed to a plebiscite on marriage equality which looks likely to be held early next year if passed by parliament. The cost of a plebiscite is reported as up to $160 million, however some figures climb up to $500 million.
Money aside, Mr Kirby said that a human rights issue should not be put to a public vote.
“When you belong to a minority you can feel the sting of it,” Mr Kirby said.
Mr Kirby called the plebiscite an “irrational policy”, citing the two other plebiscites in Australia’s history, the first during WWI which asked whether soldiers could be conscripted against their will, the second changing the national anthem to Advance Australia Fair from God Save the Queen in 1977.
“The human rights and dignity of fellow citizens should not be submitted to this process.”
“Our Parliament cannot make a law for a sacramental marriage, this is a secular country,” Mr Kirby said.
Mr Kirby said that in his view the plebiscite was an “extra penalty step” which was unnecessary for the LGBTQIA community to be submitted to.
Whilst Mr Kirby acknowledged that, “this is not one of the biggest problems in our country or the world,” he said that he hopes the plebiscite won’t happen and that it will be defeated in the Senate.