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Australia – Free Nation or Penal Colony

By Stephen Fitz

In L.A., I dropped in on friends of friends and the first greeting was “Oh, you’re from the country with no human rights?” My response was “And your government has a wonderful human rights record.” I stayed in a motel that night and pondered the average Americans view of Australia.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR is a declaration of freedom and, in the words of Malcolm Roberts “You can only have human progress if you have freedom” – Ignore human rights and you oppress that freedom.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an international document that states basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled. No nation may rightfully deprive a person of a human right. Human rights are fundamental rights universal to all human beings and are considered to be the necessities of human existence. They are internationally recognised personal guarantees and freedoms that the Government cannot abridge, either by law or by judicial interpretation. The UDHR is generally agreed to be the foundation of international human rights law.

Australia was a key player and one of 8 nations involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. Australia is a co-founder and signatory to the UDHR and yet, here we are with no human rights protection written into Australian law? We should not have to battle through the High Court of Australia for fundamental human rights or the civil liberties embraced by our contemporaries, they should be automatic.

Examples of human rights oppression in Australia include: Anti-protest laws, invasion of privacy, freedom of press and censorship, right of assembly, anti-association laws, age discrimination, inhumane treatment of refugees, abuse of children in detention, our right to participate in government, protection of family and so on. These are violations of UDHR Articles 20-1, 13-1, 12, 3, 5, 19, 7, 16-3 and 25-2.

To stop the abuse, our rights need to be acknowledged by Government and then written into Australian law either through amendments to the Australian Constitution or an Australian Bill of Rights. As a Nation, maybe then, we can rejoice.

From the mouth of Malcolm Turnbull: “For Australia to flourish we need to be seen as the innovation nation”. This suggests being ahead of the times. To hold our heads up high, on the international stage, first, we need to step out of the dark ages and lose the penal colony mentality.

We should be seen as the country who leads the world in human rights issues and yet here we are… Until we change Australia will continue to be looked upon as the country that abuses its children, has no regard for human rights and has a disregard for international conventions. Besides being oppressive, it’s shameful.


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  1. Josephus

    NZ has decided to admit Chelsea Manning. Says it all.

  2. Ricardo29

    Thanks for this post. How has it come to this? A nation which was at the forefront of encoding international human rights through the work of Doc Evatt is now flouting so many of those rights, despite being a signatory. Too many of our politicians just don’t understand the declaration or the obligations that being a signatory mean. This particular government’s breaches are increasingly egregious. We need both an education campaign about the UDHR and our own Bill of Rights, not to mention an ICAC.

  3. Adrianne Haddow

    In relation to the freedom of speech issue with the refusal to grant Chelsea Manning an Australian visa, comes second piece of news displaying the Murdoch rags’ overbearing influence in Australia.
    GetUp’s deputy chair Carla McGrath has been the target of Murdoch’s ‘Australian’ in her role as a member of the Press Council of Australia.

    In another grand display of hypocrisy, Simon Whitaker editor in chief of that rag, states that as GetUp is affiliated with Labor AND the Greens, McGrath cannot be deemed to be impartial toward the Australian in any Press Council ruling.
    Apparently any democratic institution that doesn’t bow to the influence of the LNP/ IPA/Murdoch lies and agenda is now a target.

    News Corps and it’s owner, editors and writers are a danger to any democratic function in Australia.

  4. New England Cocky

    The similarities with 1930s Germany are too close or comfort.

  5. paul walter

    FTA s trump human and community rights.. that is why they were invented.

  6. Kerri

    In this country we do not have Human Rights but we do have Human Privilege. Lots of it.

  7. wam

    WASPS and WASCS, in Australia, have all the rights we need.
    It’s the humanity that we lack.

  8. Kronomex

    wam, you forgot to add WACKOS.
    The LNP, and to a certain extent Labor, run and hide whenever there’s any talk raised about creating the Australian Bill of Rights.
    Yes, we should step from the Dark Ages into the light of the 1930’s – 1950’s…yay.

  9. Kyran

    Doesn’t it sort of depend on which part of the free nation your penal colony is situated? Currently, Victoria and the ACT do have human rights bills.

    As always, the stupidity of having so many legal jurisdictions for a population of a mere 25mill people is striking. As Dr Venturini wrote in his series of articles on the constitution, our constitution is one of the few on the planet written to protect the sanctity of the states, rather than the protection of the people. That, however, is not the subject of your article. With regard to the Victorian bill, the 20 rights are defined here;

    It seems only fair to note how easy such a charter would be to enact, in the off chance we ever get representation of the people in Canberra (which has, over the past few weeks, declared to all that the only interests served in Canberra are occupants of the chambers and their benefactors).

    “When Australia ratified the two international human rights covenants we agreed to make them part of our domestic law. While there has been action in a few areas, such as in regard to privacy and racial discrimination, the covenants have not been enacted in full by the federal parliament. This leaves us in breach of international law.
    The best way to bring about an Australia charter of rights would be to honour our international commitments by passing an act through the federal Parliament to make the covenants part of our law. No change to the Constitution would be required, and there would thus be no need for a referendum. As an ordinary act of parliament, the charter could be changed over time.
    In taking this step, we should follow the United Kingdom precedent by enacting a charter that provides the leading role to parliament and not to the courts. The courts should be able to interpret legislation to be consistent, so far as possible, with the protected human rights (a role they already play using international human rights standards). Where this is not possible, the courts should not be given the power to strike down a law. They should only be able to declare that in their view the law is incompatible with the charter and that the law should be referred back to parliament for further consideration.”

    An interesting aside is the concurrency of the prosecution of Pacific War Crimes Trials to the drafting of the UN Declaration. As Ricardo29 pointed out;
    “A nation which was at the forefront of encoding international human rights through the work of Doc Evatt is now flouting so many of those rights, despite being a signatory.”
    Doc Evatt had involvement in the prosecution of war crimes at the same time as he was assisting in drafting the Declaration. It is a deeply offensive irony that the last of the tribunals about the war crimes perpetuated by Japan was convened on Manus Island. The then Australian government was prosecuting crimes in the exact venue it is now perpetrating those same crimes.

    “The trials programme was brought to its eventual end by the deepening Cold War between the Soviet sphere and the West, which required that Japan be brought into the Western fold as a counter to the extension of Soviet influence in the Asia-Pacific region.”

    “The new Menzies government announced a final series of trials to be held on remote Manus Island off Papua New Guinea. Those trials commenced in June 1950 and concluded in April 1951. Two months later, in June 1951, all five prisoners who had received death sentences during those trials were executed—thus bringing to its final close Australia’s war crimes trials programme.”

    Thankyou Mr Fitz and commenters. Has anyone worked out when government starts? Apparently good government is no longer a prospect. Take care

  10. SteveFitz

    So, what do we have? No human rights protection, no federal corruption watchdog and a corrupted legal system that favours the rich. It looks like we have been set up to be ripped off, exploited and abused by the top end of town with the blessing of cohort governments.

    Corruption always has an element of human rights abuse woven into it. With human rights protection incorporated into Australian law and, the establishment of a human rights court accessible to all Australians, we are in with a chance to tackle corruption head on.

    Ask your local representative the questions: “Do you support human rights protection being written into Australian law, do you stand against corruption and would you support a national ICAC, do you have a sense of fairness and justice and, would you put corporate greed ahead of what’s best for the average Australian?” Then, be the guardian angel and, hold them to it.

  11. Brad Golding

    Rights, rights, rights! Everybody screams about rights, and why? Because most people are greedy and selfish! The only individuals who have rights are children, the infirmed and members of the animal kingdom. If you establish a Bill of Rights, the lawyers will make a fortune working ways around it. A right is something you think you are entitled to, “my rights!”
    However, has anybody ever considered a Bill of Responsibilities? Of course not! That would interfere with an Australian’s God given right to ignore the suffering of others!
    A responsibility is something you have to give, by taking responsibility for your actions. A Bill of Responsibilities would mean that you need to ensure that you care for and do no harm to others, nor to all creatures great and small, or the environment. But for greedy politicians, sheeple and corporations that would never do.
    Seamen may understand because of the MayDay rule at sea. If you ignore a mayday transmission, you are guilty of an offence as you have a responsibility, in law, to respond to such a call, and why do you think that might be? You will be surprised to learn that International Maritime law was derived and evolved from Arab merchant seamen following Islamic Sharia Law, where individual responsibility is a major factor. In a collision at sea, both vessels involved are INITIALLY apportioned equal blame and the vessel primarily at fault is decided after an investigation. However, it is the RESPONSIBILITY of BOTH skippers to avoid a collision. Imagine that being applied to the road rules!
    So, I will never vote for a Bill of Rights, but I would vote for a Bill of Responsibilities because I care for all of God’s creation!!! However, since such a proposal would be decided by very selfish people, it ain’t likely to happen anytime soon!

  12. corvus boreus


    Last federal election ‘Rob Oakeshott (IND) got my number 1 box on the HoR ballot paper.
    This was partially because he was the most viable candidate in terms of likelihood to unseat the resident member(NATS) who is a tourist park operator in a cowboy hat’ who specialises in letter-boxing with glossy pamphlets but shuns street engagement.
    Oakeshott had impressed me with his conduct during Rudd/Gillard years, and is very active in electorate engagement.
    Then, personal anecdotal, when he appearan at a community forum on climate change, I cornered him and asked him about his attitude/policy towards the need for federal version of ICAC.
    He immediately responded (paraphrase) ‘Of course I do, I’ve lived and worked in Canberra’.
    He then statted that he would support such a motion if others proposed it, and propose such if no-one else would.
    That earned him my vote, and, although last time around he predictably lost to Mr Glossy-pamphlet, I will vote for him again should he choose to stand..

    The main viable current option for any ‘ICAC’ is the putative ALP policy incentive of a National Integrity Commission (NIC).
    This is an election promise rather than a tabled legislative proposal,an uses cuddly lingo without mention of corruption, but is a far less ire-inducing state than was a few years back, when Shorten’s poli-waffle about ”best defense against the public perception of corruption” had me pounding keys in a censorship-provoking way.
    Shorten’s subsequent series of positively evolutionary shifts on the subject have made me somewhat happier than I was before. although I am still curdened with a substantially weighted case of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ .
    Another poster previously mentioned the standard process of policy papers usually undergo in refining from ideas (‘green papers’) into proposals (‘white papers’).
    I would agree that the ALP tabling a green paper on the NIC would be a very welcome document to see, both in terms of showing good faith and to demonstrate proper adherence to consultative and amendative processes.

    For myself regarding any theoretical ICAC / NIC, I’d like their scope to include direct and surrogate corporate lobbying/influence of politics(especially the activities of certain commercial media entities), the role of ‘think tanks’ and similar associations with parties and policies, and political influencing of public service functions through inappropriate appointments and policy directives..
    Cortiers ,and cronies, lackies and flunkies, grifters and grafters,I would like to see all subjected to more accountable scrutiny,
    with the more patently parasitic types being shaken out then whacked with a hard broom.

    I’d also like to see every ostensibly elected human being amongst them subjected to broad-range breathe-analysis before they entered parliamentary chambers to make consequential legislative decisions on our collective behalf.
    Aircraft pilot rules, zero tolerance, same conditions as they’re happy to.demand for dole recipients..

    Cheers for sharing your writings.

  13. auntyuta

    ” . . . . we need to step out of the dark ages and lose the penal colony mentality.”

    I very much agree with that!

  14. SteveFitz

    Thank you Aunty Uta – You are highly respected and I am honoured you have engaged here. We are both old enough to know what the dark ages were like and, for the sake of our grand-children, how important it is to flick the light on.

  15. Matters Not

    The Separation of Powers doctrine underpins Democracy. It follows that all three branches of government (as far as possible) should be in different hands. Any individual should not have a commanding role in determining what the Law will be (the Legislative function) while also having the power to determine how that Law will be administered (the Executive function) as well as deciding the propriety or otherwise of the whole process (the Judicial function.).

    Yet when it comes to immigration matters that’s exactly what happens. Using Dutton as an example. He was part of a government that designed the legislation. He is the relevant Minister who executes the legislation and finally he is the one who decides the outcome of the appeal process (if he decides an appeal will be heard or not.)

    The irony abounds.

    Anyone who follows Dutton will know he has an abiding hatred for the Judiciary. And perhaps that sentiment is shared. Hopefully Dutton will be referred to the High Court so they can also exercise their ‘judgement’. One can only hope.

  16. Karlos51

    Right to defend yourself, your family or your property? nope, we’re convict children under the eyes of the law.. instead we must call the police who are not actually required to protect you (tested and established in law) and wait for them to do as they please, as was the case when Bryant was on the loose in Tasmania while police attended and hid for 18 hours until Bryant set himself alight and ran to them for help. Should you actually dare to take responsibility and defend yourself, you are not deemed to have an automatic right to self defence.. you will face court where each case must be tested at your expense and judged accordingly.

    But who’s fault is that? We keep voting for authoritarians. We’ve not had many who stand for the individuals rights or the ability to challenge authority. Kevin and Julia imposed near 15,000 new laws on Australians (for our benefit? I think not..) and since we judge political success by the number of laws passed, that makes them ‘successful’. Contrast this the the extremely unpopular Abbott who repealed 3,500 laws. Ask yourself, do more laws make freer people or less? So we enthusiastically vote for people who hold more laws over us and reject those that free us..

    Again, who’s fault is it we seek strong authoritarian leaders who load us down under increasingly oppressive laws and reject those that abolish laws? Until we wake up and demand politicians cease outsourcing their jobs to departments and bureaucrats and take responsibility for their departments, until we demand politicians listen to us rather than seeking Strong Leaders to decide what to do, until we involve ourselves in politics and demand control over our government then we’ll continue to get the government we deserve.

  17. corvus boreus

    So Karlos51 is of the opinion that Abbott repealed several thousand pieces of legislation because he loves individual freedom.
    Of course, much of the ‘red and green tape’ placed on Abbott’s cackling bonfire was what is more accurately termed ‘protective legisaltion’, which do tend to restrict freedoms, mainly the freedom of corporate interests to conduct rapacious activities to the detriment of vulnerable individuals, broader society and the environment at large.
    For example, Abbott’s changes to financial planning regulations removed the onerous burden on financiers to ‘act according to the best interests of their clients’ and allowed them to collect ‘conflicted remuneration’.
    Liberating stuff indeed..

  18. Karlos51

    with a country full of catch-all laws*, I’ll take any reduction in power.

    Got a drill press, ‘gun making equipment’, got fertilizer, ‘bomb manufacturing components’, got cotton sheets, ‘explosive components’, got a chemistry book or knowledge, ‘terrorism instructional material’. Catch-alls which have been sold to us as protection with the assurance ‘they’ll only be used on the bad guys’. No, laws such as these and indeed any system designed so restrictively can and has easily been turned into the most oppressive regimes that have ever existed.

    So you fixated on Abbott and missed the point about authoritarianism, let’s try John Howard’s authoritarian firearm legislation – a very emotive example I know, but with no consultation with the public or any legitimate lawful responsible firearm owner(s) he enacted legislation which displayed a total disregard for the individual rights of lawful responsible firearm owners – I’ve no love of authoritarians no matter what cloak they wear.

    Australia’s ‘gun culture’ was more Elmer Fudd than Rambo, but the failings of one state – Tasmania – who had no registration or possession laws, who’s police did nothing to prevent the deaths while present at the shootings, and all the lawful registered law abiding firearm owners country wide were punished, while not a single criminal known to have been affected. Now the police seem to believe their duty is to impede, harass and deny any mere citizen (forgetting they themselves are ordinary citizens) who own or seek to own a firearm. Before you pop your lid, are you aware almost none of our armed police hold firearms licenses? Funny isn’t it, laws protecting the authority figures abound,

    The old adage ‘speak softly but carry a big stick – be a decent person but remember you’re responsible for your own well being is not permitted in Australia. My other point – If you are infirm, elderly or a small female you’re out of luck regarding protecting yourself, even a teaspoon “i carry to protect myself” is deemed an unlawful weapon in Oz. If you’re a young fit strong male who can rely on fists then fine, but the natural order, the innate responsibility of any living thing to protect it’s self is unlawful here. .. because we remain viewed as convicts, untrustworthy and irresponsible. So sure, I’ll take any repealing of any legislation as a good sign the person may be more friend than foe.

    (I agree with your breath testing comments, let’s also try to extend that to random drug testing of police, doctors and nurses – let’s watch the eruptions over that proposal from afar!

  19. SteveFitz

    Random drugs testing? That would be a human rights violation. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 12 – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy. Also, violation of UDHR Article 3 – Everyone has the right to security of person. And, violation of UDHR Article 5 – No one shall be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference.

    Breath or blood testing does not happen in America or England, or any other civilised country, without reason to suspect that the person is shit-faced on drugs or alcohol. So how could random drug or alcohol testing possible happen here in our beautiful Australia, for we are young and free.

    What’s that pathetic show on commercial telly? Oh yeah, RBT. Designed to normalise human rights abuse and make the corporates who supply the RBT testing units, filthy rich. The same corporates who donate to the police force: –

  20. SteveFitz

    Since I’m a human rights activist and since we are on the topic: –

    RBT CULTURE – OPEN TO CORRUPTION AND ABUSE – Emailed to the media & all state MP’s

    If the Random Breath Testing (RBT) culture were working, there would be fewer DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) related accidents on our roads? If DUI statistics, since RBT’s inception, are anything to go by. Since RBT’s are outlawed in America and England, what’s going on in Australia – Land of the free?

    RBT is the big stick being used by the police to beat us, the people, and the harder they beat us the more money they get from the state. The over-statement by 258,000 of the RBT statistics in Victoria, by the police, is evidence of this – (It’s been happening in WA since 2001 and it’s in the news right now). In America and England it’s called social oppression, human rights abuse and blatant corruption of the system by the police.

    Australia is a co- founder and signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and this brings us to Article 12 “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy… Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attack”.

    The state has no right to breath test without good reason to do so – In other words, unless you are unregistered, speeding, driving erratically or involved in an accident. Invasion of your privacy is human rights abuse and RBT is nothing less than primitive animal behaviour to strike fear into the population disguised as protection.

    DUI can be better controlled with penalties like $10,000 fine for the first offence, $20,000 and car crushing for the second offence and 5 years imprisonment for the third offence. Who would DUI then? Answer = No-one. The cost saving, to us tax payers, by removing RBT’s would be 10’s of billions of $$$ – Better spent on infrastructure or chasing down criminals and criminal organisations.

    So, what drives the RBT culture – Well, the police love it because it satisfies their police state mentality. But, that’s only part of the problem. The RBT culture, like everything open to corruption and abuse, is driven by money or profit. The corporations and companies who supply the RBT units, to the state and the police, push the RBT culture. If Breathalyser Sales and Service P/L donations to the police force are anything to go by.

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