JOHN MENADUE. It’s time for a Human Rights Act for Australia -A repost

In Pearls and Irritations recently, Elizabeth Evatt (Why not protect all our rights and freedoms?) called for a Human Rights Act to protect all our rights and freedoms and not just freedom of religion. 

The issue of freedom of religion is being examined by Phillip Ruddock and his ‘expert panel’. This issue is also being examined by a Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.  

Our record in protecting our human rights is being seriously eroded in many areas -the right to silence, the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence, freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment and freedom from arbitrary detention. In the name of counter-terrorism both the government and the opposition are trading our freedoms away. Instead of carefully weighing freedoms and security, the balance is swinging dramatically against our freedoms. The Law Council of Australia and many others have expressed concerned about the erosion of our legal rights across a wide front.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for Australia to introduce comprehensive legislation to protect human rights in accordance with Australia’s obligations as a party to no less than seven international human rights treaties. The Australian Government has consistently reused to implement this recommendation.

The Australian government boasts that it has just been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. But that is no cause for self-congratulation. Only two countries nominated for two available positions. Our selection was automatic.

It is time for Australia to consider again a national Human Rights Act.

There is a long history of concern and support for a national Human Rights Act as far back as Federation. More recently with Susan Ryan, Spencer Zifcak and others, we launched in 2005 a committee and a campaign in the Sydney Town Hall for a Human Rights Act for All Australians. See link to ‘Human Rights Act for Australia Campaign – a model statute’.

After widespread consultation across Australia, we drafted ‘A Human Rights Bill 2009‘.

The Rudd government appointed Frank Brennan to report on a Human Rights Act for Australia. Frank Brennan was then, and is still, a strong advocate for a Human Rights Act.. Regrettably, the Rudd Government was persuaded by opponents that our rights were best protected by politicians rather than judges. Seriously!

It’s time to pick up again the work that Susan Ryan, Spencer Zifcak and many others commenced 13 years ago for a Human Rights Act for Australia that protects all treaty based rights and freedoms including some economic and social rights such as the right to housing for all citizens. Securing freedom of religion is desirable but does nothing to address our more serious human rights violations.

It really is time for our national parliament to legislate for an Australian Human Rights Act. A model statute is available for consideration.


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4 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. It’s time for a Human Rights Act for Australia -A repost

  1. Chris Sanderson says:

    First, we need our own Australian Magna Carta
    A few years ago, we attended an Environment Defenders Office (EDO) event in Brisbane. There was a presentation from a group called ‘Urgenda’ in Holland. They had just successfully taken their govt to the high court at The Hague to ask they do more to respond to their duty of care towards their citizens regarding climate change. The court ordered the govt to do just that and they have. Recently they have been told by the court to do more and they are.
    Various other countries have since started to do the same, including Dr James Hansen leading a group of children making a similar claim regarding the US govt.
    Yet, the EDO have decided that Australians cannot do the same because we as citizens have no charter of rights that provides the same opportunity as the EU’s charter of rights, and nor will our tort law allow us to take a similar route.
    This has to do with our colonial history, notwithstanding that the UK citizens successfully fought for their rights. “Magna Carta Libertatum commonly called Magna Carta is a charter agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215” (Wiki), which has been fiercely defended by the Brits ever since, but they have never suggested that Australian citizens should have the same rights.
    If we are interested in dealing successfully under law in Australia with what I believe is now a govt grossly corrupted by corporate vested interests as a result of the neo-con ideology (think Abbott and Benardi) copied from the US and introduced into Australia by Howard during his reign, we first need to win our own ‘Magna Carta’ battle.
    Unless we want to end up in the same citizen-powerless neo-con state that the US is in, we need to do it now.
    But, will that lead to success? Well it is the case that, in a democracy (and ours looks shaky right now) if any govt defies the courts they immediately lose their right to govern. So, I think we have a cause worth fighting for and can win – once Australians understand how to end this phase of our political history, which we are all sick and tired of.
    Enough writing about this. Is there anyone willing to sponsor an organization composed of people who both understand why this need is critical and also have the time and some resources to fund it and some activists with passion.
    How does anyone else feel about this as an idea whose time sorely needs to come?……/Chris

    • Jim KABLE says:

      Bravo, Chris! I am with you – in the spirit of hope this response inspires within me. Just imagine – a Court deciding the fate of those politicians not looking after the citizens. Accountable for policies such as the NT intervention – for abuses and deaths of asylum-seekers. For a degraded public service – contracts to mates instead under privacy protocols. And so many other acts against our total social welfare! In favour as they are for and of the 1% here and abroad! I cry treason and traitorous dealings to what’s going on.

  2. Jim KABLE says:

    The moment former NSW Premier Bob CARR (such an expert on the US but not so much on Australia – sadly – even though I do tend to agree with his stance on the fascist nature of the Likudnik Netanyahu Israeli govt and their terrorism against Palestininans) came out against a Bill of/for Human Rights here in Australia I immediately sensed a fear by that political class for the rights – guaranteed in law – for citizens – that their accountability for things said and done either for or against the citizens and their well-being was seen as a threat to be undermined as strongly as possible. I shall be writing to the UN Human Rights Council asking them to delist Australia and select another member state replacement. I don’t know about the Human Rights’ credentials of others but I do know that Australians and those under the control of our recent governments (NT Indigenous Intervention – asylum-seeker Bjelke-Dutton led abuse on Nauru, Manus, etc) have None. We should NOT be on that UN Council – the hypocrisy of our Tremble-led and jogging female dynamite Julie B. is simply too much and must be called out around the world. So that the rest of the world knows real Australians are NOT in accord with their racism, bigotry and love of secrecy and privacy and denial of rights right across the 99%!

  3. Peter (PJ) Johnstone says:

    The Ruddock Religious Freedom inquiry must be seen in the context of this wider question of human rights,, The Ruddock Inquiry has been set up to “examine and report on whether Australian law (Commonwealth, State and Territory) adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion” and is formally required to “consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights”, to “have regard to any previous or ongoing reviews or inquiries that it considers relevant” and to “consult as widely as it considers necessary.” Those requirements could set the scene for a human rights act if addressed seriously. It does not augur well however that there is already doubt as to whether submissions will be publicised. A secret process would be contrary to the very notion of human rights; such rights require transparent decision making as central to democracy.

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