By Tracie Aylmer
When it comes to law, there typically should be three questions to be asked when deciding to implement laws for the community:
- What is the law for?
- Why is the law made?
- Is the law representative of the people?
If none of the questions can be appropriately responded to, then the law should be declared as illegal.
Recently in Australia, many of the treaties that Australia is bounded by have been watered down in domestic legislation. While many people note that the laws in Australia are legal, I believe that due to morals, ethics, and international norms, these laws are not in actual fact legal.
Politicians make the laws. It is interesting to note why they are making some of the particular laws that have recently been enacted. Are these laws for Australia’s benefit, or solely for theirs?
International human rights instruments dictate something entirely different to the discrimination afforded to large groups of people in the community. Here are the human rights instruments – signed and/or implemented within Australia – that are now giving the average Australian very little protection:
- UN Charter – ratified on 1 November 1945
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – ratified on 30 September 1975
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ratified on 13 August 1980
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – ratified on 10 December 1975
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – ratified on 28 July 1983
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – ratified on 8 August 1989
- Convention on the Rights of the Child – ratified on 17 December 1990
- International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families – not signed or ratified
- International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – not signed or ratified
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – ratified on 17 July 2008
- Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – not considered
- Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – not considered
- Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty – ratified in part on 2 October 1990
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – not considered
- Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict – ratified on 26 September 2006
- Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography – ratified on 8 January 2007
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure – not considered
- Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – signed on 19 May 2009 but not as yet ratified
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – not considered
As you can see, there are more than enough human rights instruments that should be protecting us that have been ratified by Australia. The laws should clearly demonstrate that the most disadvantaged are to be protected from any form of discrimination.
There are clear examples of this not happening. As one example, within the last few years, groups of homeless Indigenous people with nowhere to go have been camping on Herrisson Island in Perth as refugees. Their plight has been noted on and off in the media for quite some time, particularly recently. Instead of finding a solution, both state and local governments have instead raided the place and taken what few possessions have been donated to the Indigenous by the (much poorer) community. Bedding, toys for children, even food have been taken by these governments in an attempt to prove ‘what is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine’ type of concept.
The Indigenous on this island have a very clear ‘no drugs, no alcohol’ philosophy. Any person taking drugs or alcohol are told to leave. They have a clear objective of protecting all children from these banes of society, in particular the most disadvantaged of children. They all work as a community, and include all who comply with their simple rules.
I have noted in previous works that the Indigenous are discriminated against, especially in Western Australia. For some reason, the Indigenous are treated so badly, finding accommodation can be quite rare, particularly for families. It astounds many who try to help them. Finding the basic needs are much more difficult, as is finding a job.
They need to be protected by domestic laws that are bound by the treaties that have already been ratified. This includes the Conventions relating to Racial Discrimination, Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Women’s Rights, and Children’s Rights. There are so many tools of protection, yet not only are none of them used, but people are treated with contempt and disdain by those making the laws. And when one wants to protest against harsh treatment there is a very high chance that they would be not just arrested and imprisoned for two years, but also fined thousands of dollars.
While many can see that some laws are wrong and need to be wound back, the creep scope of other laws that initially do not appear on people’s radars appear to denote the exact same thing. Recent laws need to be reversed.
As can also be noted, the current federal government has not – at any stage – ratified any human rights treaties. The above treaties show that there is still a way to go in relation to ratification, but instead the Liberal government is winding back all notions of human rights. This does not just affect the Indigenous, or women, or the disabled, or the aged, or children – it affects everyone adversely.
With the new disclosures of the Mossack Fonseca files, we can now determine exactly why our human rights are being discarded like garbage. Greed means everything to these people.
So that we comply with our international human rights obligations – that we have signed and ratified – there needs to be great change in Australia. We need to reverse not just the laws, but also how and why the laws are implemented. We need to ask the question – is the law for the benefit of the Australian people? If not, then we need to discard it. If so, then we need to keep maintaining accountability.
Politicians should be representative of the people, not the other way around. The laws created by them should also be representative of the people, not the other way around.
It’s time that Australians created the change, before most of our taxes end up in offshore tax haven bank accounts owned by the politicians and their mates.
Also by Tracie Aylmer: