The Turnbull Government will tonight begin Australia’s first ever session as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN body responsible for protecting the rights and dignity of people all over the world.
Daniel Webb, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, is in Geneva for the Council session. Mr Webb said that the Turnbull Government had made major promises – known as ‘voluntary pledges’ - to the UN and the international community in order to secure the seat, but that the Government’s actions domestically didn’t live up to its promises internationally.
“There is an absolutely staggering gulf between what the Turnbull Government has been saying on the world stage and actually doing at home,” said Mr Webb.
“The Turnbull Government told the UN that it ‘believes that all people are entitled to respect, dignity and the protection of their rights.’ I can only imagine how those words must sound to the 150 children the Turnbull Government has left languishing on Nauru for almost five years.”
“The Turnbull Government also promised to ‘advance and promote the wellbeing of Indigenous peoples around the world’. Yet it has consistently failed to show leadership on the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia and, just last month, Prime Minister Turnbull completely passed the buck in response to the findings of the NT Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb said the Turnbull Government’s rapid anti-democratic slide was also likely to come under the microscope.
“Throughout its campaign for a seat on the Council the Turnbull Government made a huge deal of its pledges to ‘promote good governance and stronger democratic institutions’ and to ‘protect freedom of expression’. Yet right now it is brazenly doing the opposite, pressing for laws that would suffocate civil society advocacy and expose whistle-blowers and journalists who reveal government wrongdoing to the risk of 20 years prison,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb said that it was vital for victims of human rights abuses around the world that the Turnbull Government start to deliver on its promises and act responsibly during its three-year term on the Council.
“If we genuinely want to see a world where people are treated fairly and humanely - where victims of injustice are not just abandoned by the international community and left to suffer in silence – then we desperately need Governments like ours to act honestly and responsibly on the Human Rights Council,” said Mr Webb.
But Mr Webb said the Turnbull Government would need to dramatically improve its own human rights performance to have strong influence on the Council.
“Talk is cheap. The Turnbull Government can blow its own trumpet all it likes on the world stage but the truth is it will lack credibility and moral authority on human rights until it stops violating them,” said Mr Webb.
Australia was elected for a three-year term on the Council in October last year.
This Council session will run from 26 February to 23 March. The Human Rights Law Centre will attend every day of the Council session and provide regular updates on the Australian Government’s actions.
Australia’s Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, is scheduled to deliver a statement to the Council on behalf of the Turnbull Government tonight at approximately 8:30pm AEST (time subject to change.)
The Council session can be livestreamed here: http://webtv.un.org/
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) photostream
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)