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Letter to the Editor: Human rights denied

Letter to the Editor: Human rights denied

The Australian Lawyers Alliance expresses its disappointment at the media's ignoring of the shunning of a federal human rights Act.

Letter to the Editor

It is with great disappointment that we notice so little being published in the media today following the federal attorney-general’s decision not to introduce a federal human rights Act, yesterday.

This lost opportunity will resound with all of us in the months and years to come. Most particularly the ramifications will be felt by the marginalised and disadvantaged who lack the means to fight injustices inflicted on them, often because of bureaucracy.

This lack of political courage by a government failing to act on the advice of those whose opinions it has sought, means Australia will be among those countries with the worst human rights protections in the world.

This missed opportunity comes at a time when other nations are pondering Australia’s national psyche. Issues such as foreign national attacks; discriminatory policy towards asylum seekers; and a curbing of civil rights through tougher sentencing laws, reflect on us poorly as a nation.

If we are, in fact, a true democracy, why is it that the government is comfortable spending huge amounts of money on a consultation process and then disregarding what the public has had to say as part of that consultation?

There were about 40,000 submissions to the Human Rights Consultative Committee, 87 per cent of which were in favour of such an Act.

The attorney-general’s rationale that introducing a human rights Act would somehow divide the community, is political claptrap.

What the attorney-general really meant was that he feared the power of conservative reporters in the media, as well as Opposition spin, at a time when the government was about to swing into election mode.

The label of Australia being the only democratic country in the world without a federal document protecting rights will now stick and more human rights abuses are likely under the medley of disconnected, shallow rights protections that will continue to exist.

We have a history of human rights abuses intertwined in government policy with the White Australia Policy, the Stolen Generation and today with the Northern Territory Intervention, ‘stop and search powers’ and anti-association laws to name a few.

In contrast, jurisdictions that have introduced their own human rights Acts have seen improvements on a case-by-case basis when referred to the courts for consideration.

The only option Australians, in the remaining states and the Northern Territory, now have is to lobby for a human rights Act in each of their own jurisdictions.

Rights without protections are not rights, but rather privileges with the potential to be taken away at the whim of the powerful.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Blumer

National president

Australian Lawyers Alliance.

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