Election 2001

Response of Labor to NSW Human Rights Education Committee's survey:

(The response below from the ALP was provided by the National Secretary, Geoff Walsh).

1.How would you work to promote freedom from discrimination?
Anti-Discrimination Legislation
Labor will work with the States and Territories to provide education to all Australians about the significance of, and the need to respect, human rights.

Labor will examine federal legislation with a view to identifying discriminatory provisions, especially those that relate to age (in particular the age of retirement), sexuality and religious belief.

Labor will amend the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act to protect pregnant and breastfeeding mothers from workplace mistreatment.

Labor will legislate to require private sector superannuation trustees to recognise same sex partners in the distribution of superannuation benefits.

In view of the other priorities, Labor will not proceed at this time with the Government's stated intention to bring federal human rights legislation within a single Act of Parliament. Labor believes that these resources can be employed in much more productive fashion.

2.What are your views about a Bill of Rights?

Labor has no plans for a Bill of Rights at this time but we believe that law reform is essential to ensure that the law reflects the traditions, values and aspirations of all Australians and meets the needs of our modern democratic society

3. In what ways would you engage with issues of concern to Indigenous Australians?

Indigenous community services and employment
A Labor Government will build concrete links between poor housing, infrastructure and essential services, and indigenous health in order to address indigenous disadvantage. It will also link housing and infrastructure with employment and training outcomes. This will be done by increasing funding to both CDEP and housing and infrastructure; by coordinated planning and service delivery arrangements between government departments and ATSIC regional councils and community planning processes; and by promoting innovation and flexibility in program delivery and funding structures.
Community Development & Self Reliance
Labor will support community initiatives which increase community development and self-reliance by trialling the development of regional governance authorities where there is indigenous support for them and by ensuring that indigenous communities are helped by effective and cooperative arrangements between all levels of government. As part of this, Labor will introduce the promised legislation providing for greater autonomy in the Torres Strait promised, but not delivered, by the Howard Government.

Stolen Generations
Labor will provide a comprehensive response to the Bringing them Home Report including a national apology on the first sitting week of a Beazley Labor Government; a National Conference with all stakeholders to examine alternative methods for dealing with the consequences of the policy of removal; and annual monitoring and evaluation of responses to the Bringing them Home report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Regional Agreements-Making
Labor will facilitate regional agreement making between native title claimants, State and local governments, industry and the National Native Title Tribunal, allocating funds to a Regional Agreements Facilitation Fund which will be used to contribute to the costs of agreement making and taking immediate action to increase the supply of skilled and experienced native title practitioners by establishing a Key Centre for Native Title & Land Use Agreements.

Indigenous Heritage Protection
Labor will develop a national policy framework for indigenous heritage protection that involves indigenous Australians at the centre of the process using as a basis the amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Bill, as negotiated and agreed to by all political parties and indigenous interests, by increasing funds to the Indigenous Protected Areas program and undertaking a serious investigation of economic opportunities for indigenous communities with native title claims in World Heritage listed areas.

Labor will provide an additional $47 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services over four years for new programs targeting maternal and child health, chronic illnesses and infectious diseases, and make indigenous workforce development a national priority. Funds provided as part of Labor's new dental health initiatives will be used to provide dental health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Labor will direct $23 million to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities' solutions to the problems associated with alcohol, illicit drugs and violence and undertake a national audit of programs and services addressing domestic violence in partnership with State and Territory governments, ATSIC and the indigenous community.

While the Howard Government attacks public education and provides massive extra funding for the 58 elite Category 1 schools, Labor will provide extra funding to the schools and communities that need it the most. Labor education policies which will particularly benefit indigenous Australians include:
· $470 million over five years to establish a national network of Education Priority Zones in socially and economically disadvantaged;
· $100 million over five years to provide additional early childhood education opportunities in primary;
· 1,000 HECS-free scholarships per year to attract high achieving school leavers into teaching which will work to redress the 23% decrease in indigenous students commencing teaching courses which has occurred since 1997;
· Giving 200,000 more students careers counselling and assistance by massively expanding the Jobs Pathways Program at the cost of $70 million over five years; and
· 100,000 online university places over the next 10 years, and providing that students studying online will pay only half the rate of HECS, which will be of real benefit to Indigenous tertiary students, many of whom are mature students living away from university campuses.

Further education policies that will benefit Indigenous Australians will be announced shortly.

Employment & Training
Labor will fix the Coalition's botched Job Network with a Job Network Monitoring Authority which will ensure that Indigenous Job Network participants have far greater access to quality training, and through a raft of measures shortly to be announced which will give more Indigenous Australians jobs and quality training. These initiatives will work with Labor's Indigenous Community Services & Employment Program.

Indigenous Justice
Labor will continue its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Labor will analyse mechanisms in culturally appropriate courts and sentencing for indigenous people in the justice system being trialled in the States with the possibility of extending these as a model around the country. A Labor Government will abolish mandatory sentencing for juveniles.

4. How do you think Government could improve procedures for responding to asylum seekers?

The Labor Party firmly believes that Australia has an absolute right to protect the integrity of our borders and to determine who should be allowed to come into our country. In recognition of the importance of upholding our sovereignty, Labor has offered bipartisan support to all the legislation the Government has introduced designed to stop people smuggling rackets and stem the recent influx of illegal immigrants.

Yet the Government's efforts to combat large-scale people smuggling have been largely limited to introducing a raft of domestic measures. During the six years of the Howard Government, 11,000 unauthorised arrivals have entered Australia, compared with 2,000 in the previous five years under Labor. The Government has not stemmed the flow of people seeking to enter Australia illegally.

Since the numbers of unauthorised arrivals first began to rise in 1998, Labor has identified the need for policies that attack the people traffickers at the source and before their victims enter Australian. Labor is determined to implement a comprehensive strategy to combat people smuggling.

Effective measures to combat people smuggling require cooperation with neighbouring countries which are serving as transit routes for illegal people movement to Australia. International and regional cooperation is vital. Labor will meet this challenge with a comprehensive diplomatic strategy.

A Labor Government will pursue the issue of people-smuggling with the highest levels of the Indonesian Government. Labor will pursue a comprehensive agreement with Indonesia to extend bilateral cooperation against people smuggling. We will press for Indonesian agreement to accept the return of vessels and people who are trying to use Indonesian territory as a jumping-off point to enter Australia illegally. This will be accompanied by the provision of increased technical support for Indonesian law enforcement authorities to disrupt people-smuggling operations and additional assistance for their maritime surveillance.

Australia must also put a great deal more effort into encouraging the international community to find homes for those people in Indonesia who have been assessed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be genuine refugees. Australia must be prepared to accept our fair share of this responsibility within the scope of our existing humanitarian program.

Efforts to combat people smuggling must be also pursued on a regional basis.

A Labor Government will appoint a Special Australian Representative to promote regional action on people-smuggling issues. The appointment of a senior Australian diplomat to this full-time role, together with the establishment of an Office against People Smuggling, will provide a valuable focus for Australia's efforts to improve regional cooperation. As a major initiative, the Special Representative will explore the potential for convening an Asia-Pacific Summit focussed on the question of combating people smuggling. A Summit involving Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, and Ministers responsible for immigration and law enforcement, together with the UNHCR, other UN agencies and relevant experts will provide a valuable forum to develop a comprehensive regional framework for cooperation against people smuggling.

A Labor Government will put the issue of people-smuggling firmly on the agenda in Australia's regional security dialogues - bilaterally and at the ASEAN Regional Security Forum. The Forum has in recent years expanded the scope of its dialogue to cover transnational crime issues including drug trafficking, arms smuggling and piracy. Greater attention must be given to people-smuggling and refugee issues across the region.

Labor's new national coastguard, which will provide proper and effective coastal surveillance and protection of our shores, will also play an important role in deterring people smugglers.

The Coastguard will act as a maritime police force, 52 weeks a year, and will greatly reduce the vulnerability of our borders to undetected boat landings. This will put a stop to the message that it is easy to enter our borders whether for smuggling people, drugs, guns or wildlife.

The Labor Party introduced compulsory detention for unauthorised arrivals and continues to support this policy. In detention, while their protection claims are being assessed, asylum seekers undergo a series of strict health and character checks. Those who pose a risk to the Australian community are not released from detention.

Labor recognises that there is an urgent need to streamline the process of refugee determination and to ensure health and character checks are carried out thoroughly and quickly. This will guarantee that genuine refugees are released into the community as soon as possible, and the costs borne by the taxpayer will be reduced.

Meanwhile those unauthorised arrivals who are unable to satisfy the criteria for refugee status established by the UNHCR, or who represent a threat to our community, must be deported as soon as practicable, to ensure our annual migration program remains intact and to send a decisive message to the people smugglers and their customers.

5. What is Australia's role in achieving a balance between the global economy, the environment and the social good?

Labor's approach to international relations is based on a clear recognition of the interdependence of the world community. Global economic and social development, human rights, environmental protection and international security can best be achieved through effective multilateral diplomacy.

The United Nations is the key forum for cooperation on many issues that affect Australia's interests, including our national security, trade and sustainable development, and our humanitarian concerns for people's welfare and human rights.

Australia must be wholeheartedly engaged with the UN system to pursue our own interests and help shape change for the common good.

Labor supports strengthening the UN's capacity in the fields of preventive diplomacy and peace keeping. Australia must be prepared to accept peace keeping responsibilities consistent with our national and international security interests.

Labor considers the promotion of universal human rights to be a core foreign policy objective. Respect for human rights leads to benefits in higher standards of international behaviour and the contributions domestic peace and stability make to regional and international security. Effective human rights diplomacy supports Australia's national interests.

A Labor Government will work energetically to strengthen international mechanisms and processes for monitoring human rights violations, especially those under the auspices of the United Nations.

Labor will appoint an Ambassador for human rights with responsibility for advancing Australia's human rights objectives at the UN and in regional and bilateral dialogues. The Ambassador will promote a higher Australian profile on human rights issues and seek to build alliances with like-minded countries committed to the advancement of human rights.

A Labor Government will give priority to ratification of key human rights treaties.
Labor is firmly committed to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Court is a very important institution in deterring potential perpetrators of crimes against humanity. A Labor Government will move quickly to ratify the Statute and actively encourage other countries to ratify and achieve the earliest possible entry into force.

Labor will vigorously support international campaigns to end the sexual exploitation of women and children; to end prohibitions on education and paid employment for women and the denial of equal rights to women. Labor will further review the range of other UN protocols relating to the rights of women and children with a view to signature and ratification subject to the treaty-making process.

Labor strongly supports the development of bilateral human rights dialogues as an integral element of Australia's relations with our neighbours in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. These should supplement but not replace multilateral monitoring mechanisms and not constrain Australia's ability to speak up against violations of human rights.

Cooperation between national human rights institutions is an important foundation for regional understandings and arrangements to advance human rights in our region.

Labor will work to develop the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and will offer additional resources to Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights and Indonesian non-government human rights organisations that face major new challenges and opportunities to advance human rights.

Recognising the close links between human rights abuses and unresolved political and social conflict, Labor will establish a new Regional Centre for Human Rights Dialogue and Conflict Resolution. This independent institute will work in partnership with non-government organisations to promote regional dialogue, cooperation and capacity building

Core labour standards relate to fundamental human rights. Labor deplores cuts to Australia's participation in the International Labour Organisation and reaffirms its support for programs designed to address abuse of labour rights in the Asia Pacific region. Labor will strengthen Australia's participation in and support for these activities and give priority to international efforts to eradicate the exploitation of child labour.

A Labor Government will play an active role in encouraging Australian companies operating overseas to adopt public codes which commit them to observe international human rights standards, including core labour standards, and ensure that their operations do not directly or indirectly violate human rights, or impact unacceptably on local communities and the environment.

Labor will adopt a strengthened export control test to ensure Australian defence equipment is not used by foreign governments to violate human rights. Labor will not permit the export of Australian defence equipment to countries where there is a clear identifiable risk of the proposed export being used for the major suppression or violation of human rights or fundamental freedoms of their own citizens.

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