Response of the coalition to NSW Human
Rights Education Committee's survey:
(The response below was provided by Lynton Crosby).
1. How would you work to promote freedom from discrimination?
The Coalition is committed to working to eliminate discrimination
in the Australian community.
Australia has a well established system of anti-discrimination
laws. The Coalition has initiated important legislative changes
to improve this system and make it even more effective in
promoting freedom from discrimination.
· The Coalition has undertaken legislative and policy
changes to ensure that employers and employees better understand
their rights and responsibilities in respect of pregnant women.
· The Coalition has amended human rights legislation
to provide an equitable system to enable people to obtain
binding decisions in anti-discrimination actions in the Federal
Court or Federal Magistrates Service.
· The Coalition has amended the Disability Discrimination
Act to allow for standards to be made for disabled access
to premises. We have worked hard with industry and disability
groups to develop transport, building and education standards.
This legislative framework is important, however, the most
lasting and meaningful way to reduce, and hopefully eliminate,
discrimination is to change discriminatory attitudes. The
key is to encourage tolerance and fairness. We all need to
accept responsibility for the way our society treats its members.
Even where there is an elaborate legal structure in place
for the protection of human rights, it may be of little use
if the society in which the law operates does not believe
in the value and need for human rights protection.
The Coalition believes that the best way to protect human
rights is through better education of the community about
their rights and responsibilities. Human rights affect all
Australians, not just interest groups.
The Coalition established a National Committee for Human
Rights Education to educate the community about human rights
issues in a constructive way. The Committee is a tri-partite
organisation, bringing together the expertise of business,
the community sector and government. An important aim of the
Committee is to ensure that all Australians have a fair opportunity
to learn about human rights values: mutual respect, individual
dignity and equal opportunity and, in doing do, to promote
and protect human rights. Seed funding and secretariat support
have been provided by the Howard Government to the Committee
in its establishment phase and the Committee has been given
tax deductible status for donations.
To further reinforce the value of educating the community
about human rights the Coalition has proposed a number of
structural reforms to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission. The reforms are designed to ensure the Commission
remains well-placed to protect and promote human rights into
the future. They are designed to focus the Commission's work
on educating Australians about their human rights and responsibilities.
The Coalition Government finalised the Charter of a Public
Service in a Culturally Diverse Society (Charter) to ensure
that government services are responsive to our culturally
diverse client base.
A re-elected Howard Government will work closely with the
Council for Multicultural Australia to increase awareness
of the Charter in the private sector, so that they are able
to use it as a blue print to enhance their own service charters
that cater effectively to our multicultural community.
The Coalition Government's New Agenda for Multicultural Australia
and Productive Diversity strategies are working to highlight
that access and equity in the workplace is not about quotas,
but about having a diversity of staff on board that can deliver
bottom line business benefits.
The Coalition Government also introduced the Living in Harmony
campaign to address racism and promote community harmony.
The campaign focuses on 'what makes us all Australians' and
emphasises our common values.
Central to the initiative is the community grants program,
recognising that communities are best placed to recognise
local problems and develop solutions to address them and combat
racism at the grass roots.
John Howard recently announced that a re-elected Coalition
Government would commit $3.5 million annually to the Living
in Harmony initiative to enable these programs to be ongoing.
All these initiatives work to reduce discrimination and promote
tolerance and equality of opportunity.
2. What are your views about a Bill of Rights?
The Howard Government does not believe that a Bill of Rights
is necessary in Australia.
Australia has a system of laws for the protection of human
rights which is second to none in the world. We have independent
institutions that ensure that those laws are upheld and we
have a system of democratic government which protects the
rights and freedoms that we are fortunate enough to take for
One of the best guarantees of individual rights and freedoms
is the existence of autonomous and effective democratic institutions.
Australia has a strong independent judiciary whose independence
is entrenched in our constitutional arrangements. We have
a system of representative and responsible government, certain
important constitutional guarantees, explicit protections
in legislation including specialised human rights legislation,
and protections in the common law. Our democratic institutions
hold governments accountable. They limit potential abuses
of power. They support a democratic civil culture. They protect
and promote human rights.
Importantly, parliaments make laws in this country. In doing
so, they make decisions about how competing rights and freedoms,
including those of the community at large, are to be balanced.
A bill of rights would enmesh our courts deeply in political
issues and shift the important balance between the role of
democratically elected parliaments and the courts.
A bill of rights does not of itself change behaviour or attitudes.
A bill of rights does not assist in working out how best to
protect the rights of individuals. The literacy and numeracy
of indigenous children will not improve because of a bill
of rights. It will not improve the accessibility of our public
transport systems to people with disabilities. Practical action
is required to improve the situation of our most vulnerable.
3. In what ways would you engage with issues of concern
to indigenous Australians?
The Coalition acknowledges the special place that Indigenous
Australians occupy as the original inhabitants of this country
and recognises that Indigenous Australians are the most disadvantaged
group in Australian society.
Perhaps the most compelling consequence of that disadvantage
is the fact the Indigenous people, on average, have a life
expectancy that is 20 years less than that of other Australians.
The Coalition aims to bridge the life expectancy gap.
The Coalition is committed to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
The Coalition government's focus on practical reconciliation
as the best means to address disadvantage is resulting in
real improvements for Indigenous Australians.
The Coalition's approach is based on a strong focus on delivering
outcomes and accountability, a belief in partnerships with
Indigenous people as the best way forward, new and innovative
approaches to the way in which we do business and a preparedness
to tackle the hard issues.
A re-elected Coalition government will ensure that progress
continues and will take steps to increase the rate at which
that progress is achieved.
The Coalition has listened to Indigenous leaders and a groundswell
of opinion focusing on the devastating effects of welfare
dependency and suggesting new ways forward. In response, a
Coalition Government will continue to strengthen local decision
making, target resources in line with the findings of the
Commonwealth Grants Commission and ensure that states and
territories accept their rightful responsibilities to their
A Coalition Government will motivate and encourage initiative
through promoting leadership, effective community management
and shared responsibilities to create a new era based on a
national commitment to Indigenous affairs.
In a third term, the Coalition will maintain its commitment
to boost spending on Indigenous affairs by more than $327
million over the next four years as part of its ongoing commitment
to reconciliation, increasing self-reliance and reducing Indigenous
disadvantage. The Coalition is currently spending a record
$2.39 billion on indigenous programmes to address the disadvantage
of indigenous people.
4. How do you think Government could improve procedures
for responding to asylum seekers?
The Government's approach to the problems of irregular migration
and people smuggling has been constructed around an integrated,
comprehensive approach, which recognises that these are international
problems that require international solutions. In particular,
these problems are intertwined with the longstanding and unresolved
refugee caseloads around the world for which the international
community needs to develop solutions.
The Government's approach comprises three main elements:
1. prevention of the problem by minimising the outflows from
countries of origin and secondary outflows from countries
of first asylum;
2. working with other countries to disrupt people smugglers
and intercept asylum seekers, while ensuring that those people
in need of refugee protection are identified and assisted
as early as is possible; and
3. developing appropriate reception arrangements for unauthorised
arrivals who reach Australia, focussing on the early assessment
of the refugee status of the individual, the prompt removal
of those who are not refugees, or who are refugees but can
access effective protection elsewhere. The Government has
also removed additional benefits not required by the Refugees
Convention to minimise the incentive for people to attempt
illegal travel to Australia.
A key component of each of these elements is the development
of a broad international consensus on the need for action
and strengthened cooperation. The Government has been working
to this end through our relationships with source, first asylum,
donor, destination, and transit countries, in international
fora and with the UNHCR and other international organisations
over the past three years.
Initiatives undertaken through this strategy include:
· seeking reform of the international protection system
to ensure that protection is available to those who need it,
in the countries where they first seek asylum;
· providing $12 million in 2000-01 in targeted humanitarian
aid to ameliorate the range of "push" factors in
countries of origin and first asylum;
· allocating an additional $14.3 million in 2001-02
to support initiatives to resolve the situation of displaced
· engaging the international community to increase
its humanitarian support to countries of origin and first
· conducting an external market research program aimed
at refining messages that might be used in other countries;
· establishing cooperative disruption arrangements
with Indonesia and Cambodia;
· increasing penalties for those involved in people
· introducing temporary protection visas to reduce
the attractiveness of Australia for those seeking to enter
illegally and claim asylum;
· introducing legislation to exclude those who have
access to effective protection elsewhere from Australia's
· introducing legislation to prevent abuse of the judicial
process to extend the stay of people who have no entitlement
to be here;
· introducing legislation to protect the integrity
of the Refugees Convention and to ensure that its definition
is brought back to what was originally intended;
· improving detention capacity and shortening processing
times for unauthorised arrivals; and
· increasing dialogue with countries of origin and
first asylum aimed at putting in place an interlocking web
of return and readmission agreements.
5. What is Australia's role in achieving a balance between
the global economy, the environment and the social good?
Governments must manage competing priorities when making
any decisions. Fortunately the three areas in the question
- the global economy, the environment and the social good
- can often be pursued at the same time. The better performing
the global economy, the more social benefits to Australians
in the form of higher wages, increased employment and greater
opportunities. Indeed, a healthy global economy is the most
successful method of making social progress. Similarly when
dealing with the environment, the better the condition of
the global economy, the more likely it is that environmental
needs can be taken into account. Australia does not necessarily
need to balance these priorities - it can pursue multiple
objectives at the same time.
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