Human Rights 2010 – Ten Policies for a Fairer Australia


Phil Lynch has ten policy proposals for the next Australian Government to protect and promote human rights

Australia’s Human Rights Legacy and the 2010 Federal Election

Respect for human rights is the foundation of a community that is fair, just, cohesive and inclusive.  The promotion and protection of human rights should be a key priority for the next Australian Government.

On the international stage, Australia has a proud bipartisan history in the development of human rights laws and institutions.  At home, the recent National Human Rights Consultation demonstrated that human rights matter deeply to Australians.  Human rights principles resonate with Australian democratic values, including the rule of law and our sense of a fair go.

The Consultation also demonstrated, however, that our framework of laws and institutions does not provide comprehensive protection of rights, particularly for vulnerable or disadvantaged groups.  The Consultation disclosed a strong majority view that ‘we could do better in guaranteeing fairness for all within Australia and in protecting the dignity of people who miss out’, including the homeless, people with mental illness, Aboriginal Australians, asylum seekers and children with disability.

Ten Policies for a Fairer Australia

The next Federal Government should commit to the following policies for a fairer Australia:

  1. A comprehensive poverty alleviation and social inclusion strategy, with holistic, concrete and measurable programs and targets, including in the areas of Indigenous disadvantage, mental illness, violence against women and homelessness.
  2. Consolidated federal anti-discrimination legislation which actively promotes equality, provides comprehensive protection against discrimination and establishes reporting frameworks and requirements to measure progress  Equality can contribute to social cohesion, higher productivity and participation, and improved outcomes in areas including education and health.
  3. Strengthened parliamentary engagement with human rights, including by enacting the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010, requiring the preparation of reasoned Statements of Compatibility for all proposed legislation, and empowering the Joint Parliamentary Human Rights Committee to ‘monitor national and international human rights obligations and provide suggestions and recommendations on how to best promote and protect human rights standards’.
  4. An inquiry into the merits of constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to equality and non-discrimination.
  5. A comprehensive federal Human Rights Act which provides legal recognition and protection of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and establishes mechanisms to promote human dignity, good government and accountability.
  6. The establishment of mechanisms to ensure independent monitoring, oversight and scrutiny of all places of detention, including prisons, immigration detention centres, juvenile justice facilities, police cells, psychiatric hospitals and disability institutions.  The humane treatment of detainees contributes to rehabilitation, reduced recidivism, and safer and more cohesive communities.
  7. The abolition of mandatory immigration detention and off-shore processing, an increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake, and access to adequate housing, health care, education and work rights for refugees and asylum-seekers.  The next Federal Government should also legislate to provide complementary protection in accordance with Australia’s refugee and human rights law obligations.
  8. A comprehensive review of Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices to ensure that they are consistent with international human rights standards and are reasonable, necessary, proportionate and effective.
  9. Committing to use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the basis for Indigenous affairs, including in relation to: the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; the commitment to ‘Close the Gap’; the amendment of the Northern Territory Intervention and native title legislation; the provision of reparations to the Stolen Generations; the repayment of Stolen Wages; and Treaty negotiations.
  10. A human rights-based approach to foreign policy, including by: undertaking Human Rights Impact Assessments across all areas of foreign affairs (including aid, development, trade, investment, business, labour, migration, defence, military cooperation, security and the environment); ensuring that human rights are incorporated into the objectives and activities of all regional organisations and processes in which Australia participates and that impact on human rights; and negotiating for bilateral and multilateral agreements to include human rights clauses and safeguards.

More Than Luck is a collection of ideas for citizens who want real change edited by Mark Davis and CPD Executive Director Miriam Lyons. A to-do list for politicians looking to base public policies on the kind of future Australians really want, More Than Luck shows what’s needed to share this country’s good luck amongst all Australians – now and in the future. Click here to find out more. Like what you’ve read? Donate to help make good ideas matter.

One Response to “Human Rights 2010 – Ten Policies for a Fairer Australia”

  1. val Yule

    To make everyone able to read and understand the UN charter of human rights, here are two short versions: –

    1. Shortest version for everyday use of the United Nations’
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    A bill of rights and citizenship test for every country of the world
    And for all the reading books in schools of the world

    Very short summary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    1. All people are born free and equal
    2. Everyone has the same rights without discrimination
    3. Right to life, liberty and security of person
    4. No slavery or servitude
    5. No torture
    6. Recognition as a person in law
    7. Protection of the law
    8. Right to justice
    9. No arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
    10. Right to a fair trial
    11. Innocent until proven guilty
    12. Right to privacy
    13. Freedom of movement
    14. Right to asylum from persecution
    15. Right to a nationality
    16. Right to marry and have a family
    17. Right to own property
    18. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
    19. Freedom of opinion and expression
    20. Freedom of peaceful assembly and association
    21. Right to take part in government
    22. Right to social security and the benefits of society’s progress
    23. Right to work, a fair wage, and to join a trade union
    24. Right to rest and leisure
    25. Right to a decent standard of living
    26. Right to education
    27. Right to freely participate in their community
    28. Entitlement to an international order in which to realise these rights
    29. Everyone has duties to their community
    30. No one has the right to destroy any of these rights or freedoms

    Summarised by Bruce McCubbery 1999

    The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948

    The 1948 United Nations list had 30 items to guarantee human rights, in a perfect world. Would a country-by-country ‘score card’ according to this list be a good idea? Which nations would top this league? Compare with tops in world sports leagues.

    2. Short version expanded

    Freedom, justice and peace are founded on the inborn dignity and equal rights of all human beings, protected by the rule of law.

    Article I. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They have reason and conscience to act to each other as brothers and sisters.
    2. These rights and freedoms are for everyone, no matter what race, colour, sex, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth or birth, and in all countries.
    3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and personal safety.
    4. No slavery in any form.
    5. No torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
    6-8. Everyone is equal before the law, to have the equal protection of the law to maintain their basic rights.
    9 No arrest, detention or exile without just cause and public knowledge.
    10 Fair and public trials.
    11. The right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty. No-one can be held guilty of a penal offence that was not an offence at the time, or given a heavier punishment than what was legal at the time.
    12. The right to the protection of the law against all arbitrary interference with privacy, or attacks on reputation.
    13. Freedom to move within the borders of each state, and the right to leave any country, including your own, and to return home.
    14. The right to seek and find in other countries asylum from persecution (except for non-political crimes or acts against the purposes and principles of the United Nations.)
    15. Everyone has the right to keep their nationality or to change it.
    16. All adults have the right to marry and found a family, with rights to free consent to marry, and equal rights within marriage and in its dissolution. The family is protected by society and the State.
    17. The right to own property, and not have it arbitrarily taken away.
    18 The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, with freedom to change religion or belief, and to follow your religion or belief in public and private.
    19 The right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to seek and give information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
    20. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association with others. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
    21 The right to take part in the government of the country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
    The right to equal access to public services.
    The will of the people is the basis of the authority of government. This will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections, by universal and equal rights of adults to vote by secret vote or equivalent free voting.
    22. Everyone has the right to social security and the economic, social and cultural rights essential for dignity and free development of personality, through national effort, international co-operation and according to the resources of each State.
    23. The right to work, with free choice of employment, with just and favourable conditions of work and protection against unemployment. The right to equal pay for equal work. The right to just and favourable pay for work, to ensure that everyone and their families can live with dignity, supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
    Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions to protect their interests.
    24. The right to rest and leisure, with reasonable working hours and regular paid holidays.
    25. The right to a standard of living good enough for health and well-being, including food, clothes, housing medical care and necessary social services, and with security if jobless, sick, disabled, widowed, aged or with other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. Special care and help for mothers and all children, regardless of birth.
    26. Education. The right to free, compulsory elementary education. Technical and professional education must be generally available and higher education shall open to all on the basis of merit.
    The aims of education are the full development of human personality, respect for human rights and basic freedoms, and promoting understanding, tolerance, friendship and peace among all nations, races and religions.
    Parents have the right to choose their children’s education.
    27. The right to join in freely in the cultural life of the community, enjoy the arts, and share in scientific progress and its benefits. The right of protection of moral and material interests for anyone’s scientific, literary or artistic work.
    28. Everyone’s right to live in a social and international order with all these rights and freedoms.
    29. Duties. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
    In exercising their rights and freedoms, everyone shall be limited only by the legal requirements to recognise and respect the rights and freedoms of others, and the just requirements of morality, public order and everybody’s general welfare in a democratic society.
    30. These rights and freedoms may never be exercised against the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    No State, group or person has any right to do anything aimed at destroying any of these rights and freedoms. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying that they can.

    Short history of our declarations of rights

    Magna Carta is the Charter of 37 rights that the English barons forced King John to sign in 1215. It became the basis for English rights, including protection from arbitrary detention (habeas corpus) and arbitrary taxes.

    The American Declaration of Independence, 1776, famously states that all humans are created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we add, the pursuit of truth.

    The Four Freedoms set out in 1941 during World War II are Freedom from hunger, Freedom from fear, Freedom of speech, and Freedom of worship.


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