Thank you Mr. President
In 2011, Australia was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review. At the time, NGOs welcomed the Government's acceptance of a large number of recommendations and its commitment to translate them into practical action.
Unfortunately, many of those recommendations have fallen by the wayside. Four years later, Australia’s strong human rights record is being diminished by serious violations and regression in key areas.
We are concerned by our Government’s increasing hostility to the United Nations and its human rights mechanisms. Just last week, following the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to this Council, our Prime Minister told journalists that “Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations” while his Immigration Minister dismissed the report as “absolute rubbish”.
These alarming comments were preceded by unparalleled attacks on the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commission’s budget has been significantly cut and the Prime Minister and senior government ministers have made numerous comments undermining the integrity of the Commission’s President, Gillian Triggs, and attempted to procure her resignation.
Here at the UN, Australia has been discussing the importance of the independence of NHRIs and led resolution 27/18 at the last session. However, the Australian Government’s actions at home are manifestly incompatible with this resolution.
These attacks were prompted by the Commission’s report on children in immigration detention.
Over 1700 asylum seekers, including children, continue to languish in inhuman conditions in the Australian run and funded detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. New laws give the Government the express power to disregard Australia’s non-refoulement obligations when returning asylum seekers intercepted at sea.
Federal and state governments have eroded basic democratic freedoms by introducing anti-protest laws and restricting advocacy by NGOs. Aboriginal legal services have been stripped of critical funding, despite the continued crisis in the over-imprisonment of Indigenous peoples.
We urge Australia to urgently address these concerns and call on all states to raise these important issues with Australia in its upcoming Universal Periodic Review in November.
A media release about this statement can be found here.