International Human Rights Conventions and Australian Political Debates: Issues Raised by the 'Toonen Case'
In April 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee communicated its view to the Australian Government that Tasmanian anti-gay laws were inconsistent with Australia's international human rights obligations. Issues of Australia's human rights protection, treaty accession and Commonwealth-State relations, each of which have traditionally been characterised by major partisan differences, were brought to the fore of political debate. While the HRC decision at first appeared to give the coalition much scope to advance its arguments, subsequent developments highlighted considerable weaknesses in the rhetorical strategies of conservatives, and the difficulty of using the Tasmanian laws as a federalist cause ce le bre. In the long term, ironically, the coalition may well have weakened the efficacy of sovereignty-based arguments in Australian political debate.