"Strong Men" in Europe: Tony Abbott Visits Hungary

“I extend a special welcome to Australia’s former prime minister. It is…

Frydenberg and Steel-Plated Boots

The final results are in for the fiscal year 2018/19. The government’s…

How Good Is Communism? OR ScoMo The Trotskyist

For years, we’ve been warned about the left turning us into a…

Nuclear energy - no way

By RosemaryJ36  This report was posted on Facebook today, being an article about…

On Intellectual Freedom in a Time of Denial

By Robert Wood  The attacks on responsible freedom of expression are constant and…

Lotteries and Rights in the Sporting Life

The pigeon flapped in desperation, moving across Melbourne’s lavish Capitol Theatre in…

Prospects of Israel’s Return to the Political Centre

By Denis BrightProspects of Israel’s Return to the Political Centre Under a…

Medieval combat for ‘the Palace letters’ (part 7)

By Dr George Venturini  On 17 March 2018 Professor Hocking issued a news…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Human Rights Commission

The top 5 signs that your country’s Refugee Policy is a disaster

Australia’s Minister for Saying-We’ve-Stopped-the-Boats – one Mr Peter ‘PDuddy’ Dutton – was out and about this morning defending what he and his government believe is the best and most successful immigration policy EVER.

I decided to check out PDuddy’s claim against the following officialesque list …

The Top 5 signs your Refugee Policy is a disaster

Number Five: Refugees would rather return to possible death in a war-zone

than stay in the Refugee Centres your country provides

The Australian government has worked hard to convince as many refugees as it can to return to their home countries, despite the considerable potential risk to those refugees that doing so entails.

One Syrian refugee – Eyad – elected to return to probable death in Syria a few months ago, saying he would prefer to die with his family in Syria rather than stay on Manus island. On arriving in Syria he was arrested and tortured for 20 days. Following his release, he was allowed to return to his former home village where he was subsequently hit by shrapnel and saw his father die before him.

Number Four: You put refugees in the care of a government that has made

money from selling passports to terrorists & money-laundering

The way that Peter Dutton pontificates about ‘smashing’ the business of people-smugglers, you’d think he’d donned a cape and mask and turned into a one-man regional crime-fighting machine.

What PDuddy conveniently forgets to mention, when boasting of his crime-fighting achievements, is that the Australian government is propping up the Nauru government with our Refugee policy – and that the Nauru government is so beleaguered by corruption claims that the New Zealand government recently cut off aid to them.  PDuddy also leaves out the fact that this same government was previously heavily sanctioned by the international community for selling Nauruan passports to terrorists and laundering money for the Russian Mafia.

Number Three: Your Refugee Centres make it onto the UNHRC’s torture list

In March this year, the UN Human Rights Commission released its report on torture, naming Australia as a country who had breached the UN Convention against Torture in our Refugee camps.

Of course our government raced to immediately set up a Royal Commission to investigate the issues raised by the UN. Oh wait – no,  that was a Royal Commission into the unions. What our government actually did in response to the UN report was to say that it was sick of being lectured.

Number Two: You are spending more on your Refugee Policy than the

combined GDP of 9 small countries

In 2015, the Australian government spent at least 4 billion on its Refugee Policy – of which 3 billion was to look after offshore refugees (including just under 1600 refugees on Nauru and Manus Island).

This is the equivalent of the combined GDP in 2014 for Tonga, Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Sao Tome and Principe, Dominica and Comoros.

By way of contrast, the UN has a budget of $157 million USD for 2015 to look after over 200,000 refugees in South-East Asia.

Number One: A country in the Axis-of-Evil thinks you’ve gone too far

Over 110 countries lined up at the UN this week to comment on Australia’s refugee policies. In fact, so many countries wanted to raise issues at the periodic UN review, that each was given a time limit of just over a minute to speak. Between them they still managed to raise over 300 concerns in just that space of time.

Among their number was long-term member of Bush’s ‘Axis-of-evil’ – North Korea – who said that they:

have serious concerns at the continued reports of … violence against refugees and asylum seekers“.

It’s official – Australia’s refugee policy is a disaster …

In all seriousness – our refugee policy really IS a disaster. It is pure propaganda  – truthiness at its finest – to suggest otherwise.

And still Peter Dutton keeps a straight face while he claims that Australia’s Refugee policy:

  • has saved lives – this is doubtful at best;
  • has stopped people smugglers – if this were true, who exactly are they paying to turn around?
  • to be the most generous in the world – this is actually an insult to countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan who lay true claim to this title. We are literally nowhere near.
  • to have protected our borders – from who exactly? From victims of war, terrorism, torture and persecution, who, if they had the funds to arrive here by plane would be allowed to stay? When did we start needing protection from victims? The reality is that these are the world’s most vulnerable people being used as political pawns. They aren’t terrorists. Or economic migrants. They are people with no safe place to call home.

It doesn’t matter what measure you pick …

  • financial
  • humanitarian
  • doing our bit globally
  • stopping crime in the region
  • making our country more secure, or
  • just plain common decency.

… there is not a single measure that doesn’t point at our government’s Refugee Policy as being at best an abject failure, and at worst a complete disaster that will haunt us in years to come.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

Human Rights “Roundtable” – has Australia become a Soft Theocracy?

By Brian Morris

Has the Christian lobby influenced the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in discrimination against gays? If the answer is “no”, why has the HRC set up a ‘Religious Freedom’ Roundtable for the faithful, on 5th November?

This forum is not about ‘religious freedom’, it simply reflects a resurgent Christian lobby clamouring for new exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. As one clear example, Church leaders want special “religious liberty” for any Christians in the lucrative wedding industry to refuse services to gays, once same-sex marriage is finally legalised. They want to give caterers, photographers, outfitters, and others the “liberty” to snub gay couples who violate their religious beliefs.

It’s been brewing since the HRC’s Tim Wilson took office in 2014, and while he is also “defacto” Commissioner for LGBTI issues there are legitimate questions about how far he’ll go in shaping HR policy, to accommodate Christian anger at the very idea of marriage equality. He is reported as saying, “…we can design a law that’s more mindful of religious freedoms.”

‘Freedom of religion’ has been mandated for decades under a UN charter, adopted by Australia, and religion already has many ‘extended freedoms’ — including exemptions from anti-discrimination laws in education, health and aged care.

Consider also their grants and annual tax breaks worth billions; that Australia has the largest number of religious schools per capita in the OECD; that religious instruction and a national Chaplaincy Program persists in public schools — despite government funding twice being ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

It can be said these privileges, even now, violate the basic tenets of a secular Australia. Many will add that the nation is already a “soft theocracy (1) — where Church and State share a cosy symbiotic relationship. And this image may harden if anticipated policy recommendations flow from the upcoming Roundtable.

Clearly, Human Rights are central to secular philosophy, but so too is the separation of Church and State. ‘Freedom of religion’ does not mean a ‘right’ to Christian privilege, or to use any faith as the pretext for exemptions from the law”.

Recently, the ABC reported comments by Anglican Bishop, Robert Forsyth, who argues that “wedding service providers should have the ‘religious freedom’ to refuse to cater for gay couples.” The report included references to countries where same-sex marriage is legal, but none have seen the backlash predicted in this new wave of Christian opposition.

Bishop Forsyth heads the Religious Freedom Reference Group and is expected to attend HRC’s forum. So too is Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who goes further by calling for “religious Liberty” to nullify secular policy.

Clearly there are two sides to this vexed question, so it’s surprising that invitations to submit ideas for the event were sent primarily to faith-based organisations. Secular and rationalist groups, who have much to say on this issue, appear to have been an afterthought.

Of the 200 invitations to make submissions, only four are reported to have gone to secular organisations. At the forum they will be joined by forty representatives from Australian Churches and faith-based institutions. By any yardstick there is considerable imbalance in representation — a disconcerting factor given that the non-religious viewpoint is determined as having equal rights to ‘freedom of expression’, under international conventions. It’s particularly strange when Australians are now more than 50 percent non-Christian.

The HRC decision only to invite national bodies creates an inbuilt bias — with scores of Churches and national religious lobby groups, compared to a handful with a “secular” voice. By comparison, the Australian Bureau of Statistics called for “all submissions” with ideas for changes following the 2011 Census — including on the “Religious Affiliation” question.

Commissioner Wilson loses sight of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR). It serves to protect both ‘Religions and Beliefs’ — a mandate that specifically includes rights of expression for all non-religious and atheist beliefs. The Roundtable should be focused on ‘Freedom of Belief’, not solely for ‘Religion’.

So, what are we seeing here? Surely not a religious Trojan Horse to lobby for new anti-discrimination exemptions when gay marriage is finally legalised — adding to Church exemptions already enjoyed in education, health and aged care?”

Bishop Forsyth and Archbishop Fisher are among many religious leaders campaigning for exclusive powers to discriminate against those who offend their beliefs. Religion cannot be regarded as occupying the moral high ground — it is in no way superior to secular values; and human rights does not mean religious privilege . . . !

There are elements of concern that also surround the Human Rights Commissioner and his agenda — when Tim Wilson was appointed he was dubbed the “Freedom Commissioner.” In principle that may sound laudable but we might also consider that prior to his role with the HRC he was a policy director with the conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, and we need to finally understand his objectives in terms of new ‘freedoms’ for the religious.

Shortly after assuming his new role he gave a speech at the Australian Catholic University. It was titled ‘The forgotten freedom of worship’ and in it he said, “In short, religion is about everyone’s relationship to their creator“. That sentiment is not shared by a public majority — and in matters that may lead to people of faith having a superior privilege we need to exercise extreme care; and this HRC Roundtable is no exception.

From the outset there has been a drive for a religious forum, and points of contention include; ignoring the UNDHR definition of ‘religion and belief’; inviting predominately faith-based groups to make submissions; allowing only token secular inclusion at the Roundtable; permitting the forum to appear heavily biased towards a Christian view of ‘Religious Rights’ under the law; and aiming to frame policy from what seems a predicable outcome.

We should also reflect on the HRC wording of its “Guiding Principles” for this ‘Religious Freedom’ Roundtable — particularly items 3 and 10 — which give an unmistakable Christian perspective on morality and the supernatural. Passages refer to religion as, “the moral and spiritual guidance of our nation” and with an objective to, “uphold the law and improve Australia’s moral and spiritual guidance”.

It is unacceptable, in a supposed secular democracy, to suggest that religion has some moral superiority — over and above the broad philosophical ethics and humanitarian values shared by most non-religious Australians. One can only trust that in the wash-up of this religious Roundtable, the Human Rights Commission will not allow it to be just another gateway for politicised Christianity to win new legal exemptions — and harden Australia’s image as a Soft Theocracy”.

 

(1) Soft Theocracy — “A state where church and government purposes coincide to garnishee taxpayers’ money and resources, structurally through tax exemptions and functionally through grants and privileges.” Realising Secularism: Australia and New Zealand. 2010. Ed. Max Wallace.

About Brian Morris: World travel shaped Brian’s interest in social justice — wealth, poverty and religion in many countries. His book Sacred to Secular is critically acclaimed, including from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It’s an analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm it does. It’s a call for Australia to become fully secular. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.

 

No word from our Freedom Commissioner about offshore detention

When George Brandis gifted the IPA’s Tim Wilson the high paying job of Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom despite his qualifications being “woefully inadequate”, he said it was to “restore balance”, believing that the HRC was too focused on discrimination.

Senator Brandis said Mr Wilson was ”one of Australia’s most prominent public advocates of the rights of the individual”.

But apparently that advocacy does not extend to the rights of asylum seekers illegally incarcerated by this government.

When the HRC produced their report on children in detention, the government’s response was to launch a very personal attack against Gillian Triggs.

Tim Wilson’s response was to say “I’m not going to get involved in fuelling the debate around this report.”

So what the hell is our freedom commissioner there for?

When reports of rapes and the sexual abuse of minors on Nauru surfaced last October, Scott Morrison’s response was to sack the people who made the allegations public and to report them to the AFP on the basis of “an intelligence report” by the security company running the detention centre that claimed it was “probable” that staff were coaching asylum seekers to manufacture situations where evidence could be obtained to pursue a political and ideological agenda in Australia.

“I have been provided with reports indicating that staff of service providers at the Nauru centre have been allegedly engaged in a broader campaign with external advocates to seek to cast doubt on the government’s border protection policies.”

Whilst saying “the allegations of sexual misconduct are abhorrent and I would be horrified to think that things of that nature have taken place,” Morrison seemed far more interested in pursuing the messenger and commissioned former integrity commissioner Philip Moss to conduct an independent review.

Released late on Friday after news of Malcolm Fraser’s death, the report found no proof of misconduct by the Save the Children staff, 9 of whom are now preparing to sue.  I would suggest they have a far stronger case than Joe Hockey so if he wants to set a $1 million precedent, this could cost the government a lot of money.

The report, which the government has had for a month, did however detail many allegations against the security guards and the fact that 12 of them have been dismissed so far.

Mr Moss found compelling evidence that at least three women have been raped inside the detention centre and raised concern that sexual assault is likely to be under-reported due to a climate of fear and detainees worrying about their future refugee status.

“The review became aware of three allegations of rape (two female and one female minor), one which the Nauruan Police Force is investigating and two which the victims do not want to pursue by making a complaint. These allegations are concerning. They are also concerning because two of the victims do not feel able to bring forward these allegations to relevant authorities,” the report states.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said “Nauru would work to solve problems highlighted.”

The Australian Lawyers Alliance said the Commonwealth cannot outsource care of asylum seekers and could be liable for a “swathe of future compensation claims”.

“The nature of allegations raised in the Moss Review of sexual harassment, rape, trading sexual favours for marijuana and cigarettes and children being touched inappropriately, if proven, show that the Commonwealth has failed in its duty to take reasonable care of asylum seekers.”

So I went to our Commissioner for Freedom’s page on the HRC’s site to find what he had to say.

Tim Wilson’s latest article on March 11 begins well.

“Behind human rights is the still revolutionary idea that every human being is free and equal, that individuals own their own bodies and should be free to pursue their lives, opportunities and enterprise. Human rights provide the foundation for our liberal democracy, our market economy and our civil society.”

He goes on to say

“the biggest international frontier for human rights is ensuring the legal, social and cultural tolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.”

Another article published the same day criticised an advertisement by the Australian Marriage Forum (AMF) against marriage for same-sex couples.

On January 19 he had written an article about Charlie Hebdo and Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act and last October he wrote that it was time for the transgender talk.

I could not, however, find one thing about children in detention, or our continuing violation of human rights in offshore detention centres where we are legally liable for detainee’s safety and well-being.

Gillian Triggs, on the other hand, addressed the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.

Bigots or the disabled?

There could be no starker signal of this government’s intentions than the appointment of Tim Wilson as the Human Rights Commissioner for ‘Freedom’ at the expense of disability commissioner Graeme Innes.

In opposition, Senator Brandis was prepared to publicly criticise Mr Innes for advocating on behalf of Australians with a disability, blaming the ‘ideological culture’ within the Human Rights Commission.

The following biographies come from the Australian Human Rights Commission website.  I will leave it to you to judge who you feel is better qualified and able to make an important contribution to our society.

Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner since December 2005. During that time he has also served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.

Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a Human Rights Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.

As Commissioner, Graeme has led or contributed to the success of a number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across federal law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.

Graeme was also crucial to the development of the National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010; as well as the establishment of Livable Housing Australia.

Graeme has also been an active high profile advocate for the implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human Rights Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention facilities.

Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal; the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Graeme was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision Australia.

In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he was a finalist for Australian of the Year.

Graeme is married with an adult son and a daughter in high school. He enjoys cricket (as a spectator) and sailing (as a participant), and relaxes by drinking fine Australian white wine.”

Tim Wilson was appointed Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in February 2014.

Dubbed the “Freedom Commissioner”, Tim is a proud and passionate defender of universal, individual human rights. As Commissioner he is focused on promoting and advancing traditional human rights and freedoms, including free speech, freedom of association, worship and movement and property rights.

Prior to his appointment Tim was a public policy analyst and a policy director at the world’s oldest free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs. He has also worked in trade and communication consulting, international aid and development, as well politics. He has served as a Board member of Monash University’s Council and on the Victorian Board of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Tim is a Director of Alfred Health.

He has extensive experience in public debate and has had many regular radio and television commitments, with both commercial and public broadcasters. The Australian newspaper recognised Tim as one of the ten emerging leaders of Australian society. He has written extensively for newspapers, journals and books. He recently co-edited the book Turning Left or Right: Values in Modern Politics.

Tim graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Policy) and a Masters of Diplomacy and Trade (International Trade) from Monash University. He has also completed executive education at Geneva’s Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement and the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Worldwide Academy.

Tim lives with his partner, Ryan.”

Graeme has vast experience and many practical accomplishments to point to in his years of active service as an advocate for the disabled and a defender against discrimination.  Tim Wilson is an aging Young Liberal from the IPA who goes on TV a lot.

Wilson did not have to go through any application or interview process to land this job.  George Brandis must have been impressed with the cut of his jib when they spent an enjoyable evening together at the IPA’s 70th Anniversary bash in April last year because, as soon as he had the power, George rang Tim to tell him he had created a new job for him that would pay well over $300,000 a year and he still got to do his tv gigs.

Unfortunately, George did not offer any new money to the HRC to take Tim on.  Instead, he abolished Graeme’s position.

Andrew Bolt, who was MC for the IPA’s birthday party, in an article titled “In praise of George Brandis”, gives some insight into the reasons behind this decision when he quotes a Brendan O’Neill interview with Brandis:

 “He describes the climate-change debate as one of the ‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free speech.  He describes how Penny Wong … would ‘stand up in the Senate and say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the approach of these true believers in climate change.’ … And to Brandis, this speaks to a new and illiberal climate of anti-intellectualism, to the emergence of ‘a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the argument’…”

You have to be kidding, George.  The highly-funded denial campaign has not only had a very loud voice in the media, it has successfully dictated policy.  The opinion that “the science is settled” is shared by all those not in thrall to the fossil fuel industry.

Your government has systematically gone about removing any voice of dissent and silencing all argument in every arena.  Increasingly you are hiding what you are doing, not only from the public, but from other elected representatives.  Turning refugees into a military problem to escape all accountability and oversight is beyond your legitimate powers.  You have no right to act alone, refusing to answer questions from the Senate.

The O’Neill interview continues…

“The second thing that made him sharpen his pen and open his gob about the importance of freedom of speech was the case of Andrew Bolt… In 2010, he wrote some blog posts for the Herald Sun website criticising the fashion among ‘fair-skinned people’ to claim Aboriginal heritage, under the headlines: ‘It’s so hip to be black’, ‘White is the New Black’ and ‘White Fellas in the Black’… They were removed from the Herald Sun’s website. Anyone who republishes them risks being arrested and potentially jailed.

Brandis is stinging about this case. The judge ‘engaged in an act of political censorship’, he says, with a journalist ‘prohibited from expressing a point of view’. The reason Brandis is so keen to ditch the bit of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed such a flagrant act of ideological censorship to take place in twenty-first-century Australia is because while it is justified as a guard against outbursts of dangerous racism, actually it allows the state to police and punish legitimate public speech and debate. ‘And the moment you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be said, you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be thought, and you are right in the territory that George Orwell foreshadowed’, he says …

Brandis says … he’s bent on overhauling Section 18C … because it expands the authority of state into the realm of thought, where it should never tread, he says. ‘…In my view, freedom of speech, by which I mean the freedom to express and articulate beliefs and opinions, is a necessary and essential precondition of political freedom.’

How does this gel with your direction to public servants that they may not post opinions critical of government policy on social media and that they should dob in any colleagues who do?

How does it fit in with the fact that Liberal Party MPs ban anyone who posts links to documents (eg fiscal statements) or makes comments disproving the rhetoric on their Facebook pages?

How does it fit in with new laws outlawing the right to protest?

And could I suggest that Operation Sovereign Borders is as Orwellian as you can get.

I am assuming the 5,500 submissions received about your proposed repeal of Section 18C is the kind of debate you welcome and that you and your Freedom Commissioner may learn a few things.  One can only hope that you pay attention.

 

Scroll Up