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Human rights action needs some PR

The Australian Government needs to ramp up some media attention for its National Human Rights Action Plan, according to Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR). This month ALHR put forward…

The Australian Government needs to ramp up some media attention for its National Human Rights Action Plan, according to Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR).

This month ALHR put forward its submission to the Attorney-General's Department, regarding the Government's human rights action plan, emphasising the need for more media attention to boost awareness.

Representing a network of over 1700 Australian lawyers, ALHR president Stephen Keim stated that Australia's current protection of human rights is piecemeal and inadequate, voicing ALHR's disappointment in the government's actions so far.

The human rights action plan, launched by the government as part of the 2010 Human Rights Framework, is to be developed over the next year in consultation with states and territories and non-government organisations.

In ALHR's submission, Keim stated the need for greater awareness of human rights issues and the government's plan of action, and called for a national media campaign.

"ALHR notes that the government's development of previous action plans lacked a strong media campaign aspect," he said.

"Promoting participation in the development of an action plan on national TV, in print media and on social networking sites, for example, will encourage a broad spectrum of the public to contribute to the development of the action plan ... While a media campaign may add significant costs to the development of the action plan, this cost is easily outweighed by the benefit of mass inclusion."

ALHR also urged the government to reconsider its position on a Human Rights Act.

"ALHR is disappointed in the Government's decision not to legislate for a comprehensive enforcement of human rights consistent with Australia's international obligations in that regard, through the introduction of a Human Rights Act," Keim said.

Among other suggestions put forward by ALHR, Keim said Australia should implement an action plan in line with those of New Zealand and Sweden, and initiate a dialogue with both countries to obtain some guidance.

In terms of the "committee of senior officials" to oversee the project, ALHR also called for greater representation of the community.

"A steering committee consisting only of government officials would risk the process becoming alienated from the community and key community organisations."

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