Response to human rights matters 'woefully inadequate'
The Australian legal community has been urged to come together following intense scrutiny from other jurisdictions over the nation’s responses to human rights issues.
According to Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), human rights in Australia have never been under greater threat and as such we have received great disapproval from other countries that are more focused on the issue.
“The protection of human rights is now at a very low point in Australian history,” said ALHR president Benedict Coyne.
“Our government has received unprecedented and ongoing severe criticism from the international community for its failure to uphold even the most basic human rights standards.
“Tumultuous world events have led to a surge in the number of people seeking asylum, unprecedented escalated national security measures, including unparalleled surveillance, and an alarming normalisation of hate speech.”
Mr Coyne noted Australia’s treatment of vulnerable participants in the criminal justice system is under the spotlight, as is its failure to address human rights issues faced by Indigenous Australians.
“The often woefully inadequate responses by our government to these challenges have led to serious human rights violations. This is more than just alarming. It is unconscionable,” he said.
“By putting forward Australia's candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the federal government effectively promises to promote human rights and champion the rights of marginalised people overseas. Ironically, we are the only Western democracy without the protection of some form of a bill of rights or legislative human rights act at the federal level.
“We rely on the good faith of our parliamentarians to protect us, rather than the protection of law to guarantee our human rights. Too many times a blind faith in the Parliament has led to human rights violations against the Australian people by the governments of Australia. This system all too often fails the most vulnerable to human rights abuses, with little recourse. This must end – Australians deserve and should demand legal protection of our basic human rights now in order to properly protect our democratic way of life.”
In an attempt to address the issue, ALHR, in partnership with La Trobe University’s Law School, will hold a two-day national conference from 17 February.
The conference will focus on improving human rights protection in the country, bringing together leaders in the legal, academic, business and community sectors.
“The legal community is one of the best-placed sectors to champion these serious challenges to democracy and democratic institutions. The ALHR National Human Rights Conference will bring together some of Australia’s most prominent human rights advocates to examine topical issues such as our treatment of refugees, disability rights, violence against women and freedom of speech,” Mr Coyne said.
“We must urgently, prudently plan strategic pathways toward improving human rights protections in Australia for the wellbeing of our families, our friends, our fellow Aussies and future generations.
“This is a must-attend event for all lawyers, advocates and champions of human rights practising in Australia or internationally.”