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?
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
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
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.
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
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
· $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.
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
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
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
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
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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