find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Practise what you preach, Australia!

Practise what you preach, Australia!


Australia’s commitment to promoting human rights abroad is “flagrantly incompatible” with legislation that muzzles the press and strips funding from advocacy bodies, according to the head of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).

"There is a growing disconnect between Australia’s support on the world stage for vibrant civil society, strong national human rights institutions, and the protection of journalists, and its apparent disdain for the vital work of these actors at home," said Phil Lynch, the director of the Geneva-based human rights organisation.

ISHR has just released a report that calls for Australia to repeal numerous laws that curtail fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

The report, which was created in consultation with the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), will be considered by the UN Human Rights Council in November.

It specifically criticises laws, policies and funding arrangements used by federal and state governments to prevent peaceful protests; delegitimise the national human rights institution; limit NGO advocacy; and criminalise some forms of journalism.

"There is a disturbing trend in Australia of governments eroding basic democratic freedoms … which are the basic ingredients of good government and accountability," said director of advocacy and research at the HRLC Emily Howie.

Let Triggs do her job

ISHR has joined HRLC in condemning the government’s apparent attempts to undermine the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Substantial funding cuts, the appointment of commissioners without proper processes and persistent political attacks on the president of the AHRC, Gillian Triggs, are of particular concern to Lynch.

In December last year, the Australian government announced a 30 per cent reduction in funding to the AHRC.

Every two years, Australia heads the UN Human Rights Council’s effort to safeguard the independence of national human rights commissions around the world. Our leadership position in this area further highlights the hypocrisy of our actions at home, according to Lynch.

"Australia should heed the advice it frequently dispenses to other nations at the UN by restoring funding to the Commission and by defending the independence and integrity of the Commission’s highly-qualified president," he said.

Don’t gag journalists or advocates

The submission recommended that Australia immediately repeal laws that would allow whistleblowers and journalists to be jailed for 5 to 10 years in the interest of national security.

ISHR strongly objected to these provisions because they are not subject to public interest exceptions, even when human rights violations or illegal actions are being exposed.

Howie said she was disturbed by the recent revelations that the Australian Federal Police have investigated journalists’ confidential sources for reports on asylum seekers.

“[This is] yet another illustration of the need for stronger laws to protect freedom of expression and access to information in this country," she said.

ISHR’s report also criticised attempts by the government to supress law reform work by NGOs by restricting their right and ability to gain access to funding.

Queensland, for instance, has enacted ‘gag clauses’ in community organisation contracts, which prevent those organisations from advocating for federal legislative change.

Similarly, the Australian government recently stopped community legal centres from using Commonwealth funds to push for policy reforms and has removed funding from a number of human rights organisations working to improve the rights of Indigenous people, asylum seekers, refugees and the homeless.

“Australia should reinstate funding to these vital civil society organisations [and] … repudiate contractual provisions which … restrict the right … of NGOs to advocate for progress,” said Lynch.

A coalition of Australian NGOs (coordinated by the HRLC) will submit a further report to the UN in the coming weeks.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Practise what you preach, Australia!
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Quentin Bryce
Oct 18 2017
DV has worsened in a generation: Quentin Bryce
Former governor-general of Australia Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO has spoken of her deep distress about...
Oct 18 2017
Academics entertain the idea of law without lawyers
Researchers from Queensland will explore some of the most disruptive trends tipped to transform the ...
Please, Continue (Hamlet), Melbourne Festival
Oct 16 2017
Hamlet suffers slings and arrows of top Victorian barristers
Victorian judges and barristers have performed the unique play Please, Continue (Hamlet) at the Melb...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...