Human Rights And Advocacy
Human rights refer to the moral principles that define specific standards of human behavior that are usually protected as natural as well as legal rights in law. The United Nations (UN) clearly defines human rights as those rights that are inherent to all people by virtue of being human beings and are not limited by factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other status (Human Rights Law Centre, 2018). In this regard, the UN is an intergovernmental organization that promotes international cooperation leading to the creation and maintenance of order along the international borders. To promote the protection of human rights, the UN has adopted a set of instruments dubbed the international human rights instruments. The United Nations (2016) explicates that the latter are defined as essential treaties and documents that are pertinent to international laws on human rights as well as their protection. These instruments can be global or regional and are mainly categorized as conventions and declarations.
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Historically, states implemented the UN declaration and conventions on human rights through the enactment of various national bills, acts, or charters. The United Nations (2016) postulate that human rights protection entails agreeing to meet the standards of international human rights treaties and implementing domestic measures that help uphold international treaties on human rights. McIntyre and Chambers (2015) outline that in Australia there is no national bill or charter on human rights. That is, Australia is the only democratic nation in the world that has not implemented the UN declaration and conventions on human rights into the national law as reiterated by the National Human Rights Consultation (2009). The motivation for human rights lies in their conventional and fundamental nature in ensuring that everyone is protected based on the virtue of their humanity. The debate over human rights protection in Australia has been lingering for a long time since the country does not have an established human rights framework for protecting its citizens despite being a founding member of the UN and directly participating in the ratification of these rights at the international level.
Current Situation in Australia Regarding the Protection of Human Rights
Across the globe, human rights are always observed with high regard as they are directly espoused in the constitution. However, McIntyre and Chambers (2015) note that Australia is the only Western democracy that has no national human rights act. Australia is yet to adopt a bill of rights, and for this reason, it has very limited protection of human rights issues. Lack of a national human rights act is a significant problem given that although many people in Australia tend to enjoy a high standard of living, various human rights problems arise nonetheless. Some of these problems include poor health and living conditions among indigenous Australians, detention of asylum seekers including children for a long time, and a considerable number of the homeless according to Human Rights Law Centre (2017). Other notable human rights issues that arise in Australia are denial of the right to vote for prisoners serving a custodial sentence of three years or more and lack of a parental leave.
Australia does not have a bill of rights to protect the rights of individuals in a single document but states these rights in the constitution, legislation, and common law. McIntyre and Chambers (2015) explain that the formulation and maintenance of human rights in Australia undergoes a rigorous legislative process. This further confirms that Australia lacks an independent bill of rights in contrast to other democratic states of the world (National Human Rights Consultation, 2009). In this case, the context based pieces of legislation are safeguarded mainly by the judiciary and high court and are implemented similar to other laws. At the same time, it is essential to note that Australia lacks an independent statutory body to safeguard human rights. The absence of a watchdog in Australia is perceived ironic because it was one of the founding members of the UN and participated directly in signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Alternative Legislations and Their Pros and Cons
The absence of a national human rights act or bill in Australia has led to the adoption of alternatives legislation on human rights protection. McIntyre and Chambers (2015) opine that one of these legislations is the Australian constitution itself. The constitution provides protection for a number of human rights. Some of these rights include the right to self-determination, vote, acquisition of property, religious observance, interstate trade, and jury trial. Further, the constitution also implies various mechanisms of protection of human rights. A key advantage for this legislation is that it plays a significant role in improving Australia’s sense of democracy. Democracy is protected by preventing people from a number of abuses. However, an essential disadvantage of this legislation is that the Australian constitution provides few protections for human rights. For instance, the protection of human rights by this legislation does not work across the national boarder. Thus, there is a significant gap when it comes to guaranteeing human rights in the country.
Common law is another alternative for human rights protection in Australia. According to the National Human Rights Consultation (2009), common law encompasses laws that were inherited from the United Kingdom and those adopted by judges. Thus, common law provides protection of a few human rights related issues. One of them is the right to receive a fair trial and the rights to the freedom of movement. Therefore, the key advantage of this alternative legislation is that it allows for human rights to be championed by rational and analytical attributes as possessed by judges. Further, the fact that judges have the capability of exploring a problem not in the heat of the moment but after a comprehensive analysis indicates the advantage of common law. On the other hand, common law results in a process of developing a rather complex policy, which, in turn, has the potential to have adverse financial implications for the country.
The National Human Rights Consultation (2009) as well as McIntyre and Chambers (2015) hold that statutes are equally a form of alternative legislation in Australia for the protection of human rights. That is, human rights in Australia are protected via adoption of a number of statutory enactments. The enactments, however, take place in a far-reaching variety of particular contexts. A good example of the statutory enactments is in relation to statutes that serve to regulate the powers of the police. Statuses relating to consumer rights are also an example of such statutes. Consequently, a significant benefit of this piece of legislation is that it provides a specific context to which the rights of human beings are protected. However, statutes do not guarantee an effective way of incorporating international human rights through domestic regulation as needed for a successful protection of human rights.
Additionally, the Australian Human Rights Commission Act of 1986 stands out as an instrumental alternative to human rights protection in Australia. This act provides key powers and functions for the country’s commission on human rights to monitor and promote these rights. The responsibilities of the Australian Human Rights Commission also include the focus on the Discrimination Act of 1975, Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, and Age Discrimination Act of 1996 (McIntyre & Chambers, 2015). Therefore, the key advantage of these pieces of legislation is they support the notion that human rights need to be enjoyed by all people regardless of sex, race, age, or disability. However, these legislations touch on very few human status of sex, race, age, or disability (McIntyre & Chambers, 2015). Focusing on few aspects of humanity has left gaps in the country’s efforts towards fighting against other forms of discriminations to which people are exposed. For instance, there have been gaps illustrated in the employment discrimination cases. That is, when discrimination in this case falls outside the grounds guaranteed of the anti-discrimination legislation, courts cannot provide a remedy.
In addition, Australia has a number of state or territory legislations related to human rights. Specifically, these states reflect various human rights principles as per Human Rights Law Centre (2017). One of these legislations is the Child Protection Law, whose function is to ensure the best interests of a child. An essential pro of this alterative legislation is that it protects the human rights granted to children as one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. On the other hand, the major disadvantage of this legislation is its inability to capture all the abuses against children in Australia, thus denying them justice.
Human rights remain an essential global issue that needs to continue being addressed. In Australia the methods of protecting these rights remains weak. Consequently, there have been a considerable number of calls by international human rights groups including the UN on Australia rethinking its implementation of human rights. Nonetheless, it is expected that the issue of the extent of desirability of Australia adopting a national bill, act, or charter on human rights will continue to be a topic of debate for a long time. In this case, the human rights debates remain unresolved as people hold different perspectives on whether Australia should adopt the Bill of Rights or not.
Thus, it is recommended that the Bill of Rights is put in place in Australia for the purpose of effective protection of human rights. It is worth noting that since human rights are fundamental to every individual, they should be effectively protected in a single document that shows the respect for these rights. Thus, putting all the rights under the Bill of Rights will enhance respect for everyone. Additionally, it is recommended that Australia, as a key member the UN and one of the founders of the basic human rights, should ratify all international statutes on human rights through a clearly defined framework. This way, Australia will ensure that human rights are protected properly in the country.