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Government misses the mark on human rights

The Uniting Church has today voiced its disappointment at the Federal Government’s refusal to proceed with the development of a Human Rights Act for Australia.

“The Government’s response to recommendations from the National Human Rights Consultation, released today by the Federal Attorney General, is a lacklustre attempt to lift Australia’s commitment to human rights to a reasonable level,” said Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Church’s national justice and advocacy unit.

“Today’s announcement is a disappointment, particularly after some of the excellent work the Government has already done, such as ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture.

“While we are pleased that several of the recommendations from the Committee’s report have been taken on board, we are very disappointed that the Government has failed to listen to the overwhelming community support for a Human Rights Act.

“The National Human Rights Consultation attracted the largest input from the general public ever seen for a public consultation process, with the overwhelming majority of people who gave their views on a Human Rights Act supporting this important step forward for the Australian community. The Government have failed to listen to its citizens.

“We have sadly missed a once in a generation opportunity to demonstrate how seriously we take our human rights obligations.

Rev. Poulos said, “This response provides yet another example of the Government’s reluctance to offer moral leadership. The question of a Human Rights Act for Australia is both an issue of how seriously we take our obligations to international humanitarian law and an issue that reflects of the kind of Australia we want to be.

“While we generally do well with human rights in Australia, we can still do better. The Government’s commitment to implementing some of the recommendations goes some of the way, but it will not be sufficient,” said Rev. Poulos.