The Death Penalty in Australia: A Matter of Principle

It is almost 40 years since the last person was hanged in Australia. Today, the death penalty has been abolished in every Australian jurisdiction. Opposition to the death penalty attracts bi-partisan political support. Yet, in a region where many of our closest neighbours still maintain the death penalty, I believe Australia can – and should – take a stronger stand against state sanctioned execution.

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A Fair Go for the Poor, Homeless and Unemployed

Earlier this year, the Victorian Government passed the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, becoming the first state to enact comprehensive legislative protection of civil and political human rights. The right to freedom and protection from discrimination, an integral component of the international human rights framework, is enshrined in s 8 of the Charter. Regrettably, however, the right is limited to protection from those forms of discrimination that are already prohibited by Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. This calls for urgent reform

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The War on Human Rights in the War on Terror

The War on Human Rights in the War on Terror

On 18 August 2006, the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed convictions against Jack Thomas for receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and possessing a falsified Australian passport. Mr Thomas had previously been found guilty of these offences on the basis of self-inculpatory admissions made during an interview conducted by Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) in Pakistan on 8 March 2003. The Court of Appeal quashed the convictions because these admissions constituted the only evidence to incriminate Mr Thomas.

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Torturing Rights at Home and Abroad

Torturing Rights at Home and Abroad

In the grand scheme of human rights law, some rights are more equal than others. Consider, for example, the right to life in art 6 of the ICCPR. The UN Human Rights Committee calls it the ‘supreme right’ from which no derogation is permissible. Nothing justifies a State’s failure to guarantee it. Few human rights compare for gravity. But at least one other does: the right to freedom from torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

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The Value of the Legislative Entrenchment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Value of the Legislative Entrenchment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

On a recent visit to Australia, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Paul Hunt, reflected on the global trend towards the legislative entrenchment and judicial recognition of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to education, adequate housing and health care. Increasingly, he said, domestic legislatures and courts are recognising that economic, social and cultural rights are as concrete and important as their civil and political cousins.

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The Need for a Human Rights Law Resource Centre

The Need for a Human Rights Law Resource Centre

The Australian ‘reluctance about rights’ and the gap between international human rights law and Australian domestic law, policy and practice are well documented. Despite ratifying all of the major international human rights treaties, Australia has not fully implemented or incorporated their provisions into domestic law. Australia remains the only Western democracy without a legislatively or constitutionally enshrined charter of human rights.

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