Report Says Australia Continues To Violate Human Rights

Amnesty International this week released its 50th annual report into the state of the world’s human rights. The review scrutinizes human rights in 155 countries including Australia from January 2011 to December 2011.

The report found that failed leadership has gone global showing political egotism and brutality in severe disparity to the bravery shown by activists demanding accountability, change and real leadership.

That global leadership failure includes Australia, with the government’s attempts to repackage unsuccessful past policies for Indigenous peoples rights and refugee and asylum seeker policies.

In January 2011, Australia’s rights record was looked at for the first time and 145 recommendations for improvement were made. During the UN Universal periodic review, the Government rejected recommendations that Australia introduce a Human Rights Act; end mandatory detention of asylum seekers, allow same sex marriage and compensate Aboriginal peoples for the stolen generation.

The government did however, take on board the recommendation to introduce a national plan to reduce violence against women and children.

The report found that Australia continued to violate the rights of Indigenous people by limiting funding for housing, taking away essential services such as water and sanitation and forcing Indigenous Australians to leave traditional homelands, in the Northern Territory.

Claire Mallinson, the National Director of Amnesty International Australia said, “The stronger future bills are about to be debated in the senate. If passed, they signal a continuation of a dark era for Aboriginal Peoples in the Northern Territory. Essentially, it’s the Intervention under a new name.

An overwhelming majority of affected Aboriginal communities oppose the legislation, the intervention was systematically condemned internationally, and this month, elders have brought their concerns on stronger futures, to the UN. We urge senators not to support these bills.”

That was re-package number one. Re-package number two was the government’s attempt to push through the Malaysia solution for refugee and asylum seekers. The attempt put Australia under the world microscope and brought about international criticism.

“Attempts to seal the half-baked Malaysia deal tarnished Australia’s international reputation with the last minute high court ruling, the ‘solution,’ a breach of international law, Australia must not outsource its responsibilities, not to Malaysia, Nauru or Papua New Guinea. This short-term approach undermines Australia’s ability to develop a regional solution and the repackaging of policies is harking back to the grim days of the ‘Pacific solution’,” said Clare Mallinson.

November has seen 5,733 people in immigration detention, 441 of them children, 38% had been in detention for more than a year. Increased rates of suicide and self harm, some by children as young as nine years old, were reported in virtually all detention centres.

Clare Mallinson says, “Politicians must consider the global circumstances, such as the conflict in Afghanistan, which are forcing mass numbers of people to seek asylum from persecution and violence. In 2011 Australia received less than 3% of the total asylum claims made in the west.

Both major parties must stop playing politics with people who are fleeing terror and torture and seeking their legal right to protection. They must deliver a principled, consistent and humane approach to upholding refugee rights. At a time of unprecedented global change and turmoil, Australia needs to take a leading role in addressing human rights issues on home soil, in the region and internationally. Failing to act on the UN recommendations and resurrecting failed policies set a negative precedent for the region and undermine Australia’s reputation on the world’s stage.”

In a world stage analogy, Australia is no longer in the chorus, but in the spotlight. How the nation moves forward on these findings will determine if we hold the audience for an encore, or shuffle off stage to no applause at all.

Fiona Hammond
Fiona Hammond is a journalist who graduated from the John Morris journalism academy. Fiona lives on the south coast of NSW Australia and writes human interest stories and opinions, about gardening, sustainability, fishing, the environment and our planet.