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Australia’s 2018 human rights record heavily criticised

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Australia has been heavily criticised for its breach of human rights and failure to protect citizens, as a report finds it is significantly falling behind its Western counterparts.

A report card for the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) found that without a bill of rights, Australia continues to mistreat minorities, leaving people vulnerable to a range of abuses and unfair systems.

The treatment of Indigenous people, refugees, women and freedoms was of particular concern.

President of ALHR, Kerry Weste, said: “While the federal government can be awarded a gold star for introducing a Modern Slavery Act, Australia continues to be criticised by multiple United Nations bodies for its abject failure to protect basic rights on multiple fronts – often impacting profoundly on vulnerable Australians.”

Weste added that Australia’s record on protecting universal rights has not improved over the last four decades when Australia appeared before the UN to defend itself. It is despite Australia’s place on the United Nations Human Rights Council and its role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Government 2017 Score 2018 Score
Victoria C C
Queensland C- B+
Western Australia B C
South Australia D D
Tasmania D D
Australian Capital Territory B B-
Northern Territory E Still being assessed

New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania ranked the lowest of all states with an overall D grade. The ALHR cited an approach to abortion, Indigenous people and LGBTI rights respectively for the continuously low grades. Queensland was rated the highest, but was still criticised for its treatment of Indigenous communities.

Overall, Australia was graded an F for its treatment of Indigenous people, due to there being no mention in the budget of important areas such as justice, family violence and Closing the Gap. ALHR cited there had been no progress towards reconciliation, civil, political, economic, social or cultural rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Australia’s handling of refugees and asylum seekers was heavily criticised due to the lack of transparency around its policy of intercepting vessels and its treatment of those in detention on Nauru and Manus Island.

“ALHR remains deeply concerned about Australia’s approach to refugees and people seeking asylum and calls for significant and urgent reform across a number of areas,” the report said. “In particular, much more must be done to ensure a fair, efficient and transparent assessment process for all people seeking asylum.”

Performance Area 2017 Score 2018 Score
Indigenous Rights F- F-
Business and Human Rights C C+
Refugees and People Seeking Asylum F F
Freedoms F F
Disability Rights D D
Women and Girls’ Rights F C
Children’s Rights Not tracked previously D

The Prime Minister came under fire for Australia’s lack of protection for LGBTI+ rights. The ALHR said LGBTI+ youth remain the most vulnerable to abuse, harassment and violence and must do so without the protection of the National Safe Schools Program. The report made particular reference to Scott Morrison’s comments on LGBTI+ youth.

ALHR said: “For the Australian Government, through the Prime Minister, to promote abuse, harassment and violence against LGBTI youth by way of his comments is in direct conflict with Australia’s international human rights obligations.”

Weste said Australia’s role in establishing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights betrays citizens and politicians should be inspired to change the current human rights record so “people can live with freedom, equality and dignity”.

Weste said: “Australia remains the only Western democracy without a bill of rights or federal Human Rights Act. The immediate creation and implementation of one is the surest way to assist in creating a better platform to help all Australians receive and be guaranteed of their basic rights.

“The Australian government owes it to all Australians to legally protect our rights.”


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