Youth Summit Welcome Address


Thank you Jules. I too would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to what is sure to be a very exciting and productive youth summit. For those who don’t know me, I’m not really worth getting to know and I thought I should just say so now so as to save you considerable grief in the future.

We are in trouble!

Who are we going to call? The ghost busters can’t help us now. Our enemy, unlike the slimy foe of our fictional would-be heroes, is very, very real. Our enemy is indifference.

What do we do? I wasn’t sure, so, being the good private-schooled spoilt snot that I am, I did what all good private-schooled spoilt snots do, I asked my dad. His reply – ask Mr. Costello, the treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, he knows one or two things about the economy, perhaps he knows something of economic rights. “Fair enough”, I said, and off I went.

Now I don’t know about you people, but I am pretty terrible when it comes to names. At least that’s what John here [point to Jules] tells me. I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell which one of the Costello’s it was who was the treasurer. Was it Tim or was it Peter? I decided that I would seek out both.

Tim I found speaking at a dinner held for the newly-opened Human Rights Law Resource centre to which a number of my amnesty brethren (and sisteren…) were also invited. Tim spoke of the importance of human rights and the importance of economic, social and cultural rights and how they were often overlooked in favour of our old friend civil and political rights. He stirred and inspired us all and reminded us of the importance of the work that human rights organisations do. I wondered to myself, is this the treasurer? This is certainly a man I would like to be the treasurer.

Peter I found speaking at a dinner held for the old-boys club of an exclusive Melbourne private boys school, the Old Scotch Collegians Association. He drank lots, made a few racial slurs and some jokes about boys in kilts. He spoke of Australia’s vibrant economy, its position of influence in the region and, of course, joked of his aspirations to be Prime Minister of Australia. By this stage, I was pretty sure that I had my man in the treasurer. I was also surprised at how much I didn’t mind him as a person – no small miracle considering my attitude towards the upper echelons of the Australian Liberal Party.

What really surprised me was how much the two brothers agreed with each other. Their approach was notably different. However, I did not see a huge discrepancy in their desired end result. I was truly inspired by both of them to the same end, and that end is to inspire you here today.

We are all all too familiar with civil and political rights. Yes, they are very important, nobody is denying that. Perhaps one of the most important achievements of an organisation such as Amnesty International was the thrusting of these rights into the mainstream. Ask anyone on the street these days about human rights and, chances are, the answer will involve civil and political rights.

But to me, these human rights problems are simply the symptom of a much bigger problem. The cause of that problem begins with economic, social and cultural rights. These rights include the right to work, the right to education, certain standards of living, and health both physical and mental. All too often, the denial of these rights is right at the root of some of the biggest problems which we face in the world today.

We must, as in all human rights issues, raise awareness, interact with and educate the community around us. It is said that Satan’s greatest victory was to convince mankind that he didn’t exist. Whether you subscribe to religion or not, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise the cunning in an enemy of whose existence we are unaware. We must let the community know that these are not wishy-washy ghosts, but are very real and are the cause of some very real problems. We musn’t be indifferent and we must encourage others to do the same.

I am often asked by friends why I devote so much time and energy to such a difficult cause as human rights. I often respond with why not, and I’d like you to keep this thought in mind whenever you are considering difficult work in this area, or indeed any other area for that matter.

Thank you, please enjoy the summit… I’m here ‘till Sunday [wink]

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