Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?

| May 19, 2009
NHROC logo

When you are trying to describe human rights, think of the core values which you believe should underpin our society.

In 2005, an inquiry was conducted into the Government’s handling of Australian citizen Cornelia Rau. This inquiry brought up a number of issues relating to human rights in Australia. Namely, rights relating to immigration, detention and the rights of the mentally ill.

The inquiry and accompanying public debate raised a number of questions about our responsibilities to protect those rights. What is the responsibility of Government? Of the community? Of the individual?

Not everyone knows which human rights we have in Australia. Not everyone agrees about which rights we should have. Questions exist about what those rights should be and whose responsibility it should be to protect them.

When becoming an Australian citizen a person says:

I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people,
Whose democratic beliefs I share,
Whose rights and liberties I respect,
And whose laws I uphold and obey.

NHROC logoAt the community roundtables we’ve been asking participants to reflect on that oath and try to answer the following questions:

If you were trying to explain those rights and liberties to a new Australian citizen, what would you say?

What are those rights and liberties?

What should those rights and liberties be?

Do you think that you also have responsibilities along with those rights and liberties?

The answers have been diverse. Some people provide a long and detailed list, whilst others have preferred to keep it brief. On the one hand, it can be said that recognising a detailed list of rights offers protection to vulnerable minority groups. On the other hand, there are fears that being too prescriptive, may over, time unintentionally exclude people.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between our legal rights in society and our human rights. When you are trying to describe human rights, think of the core values which you believe should underpin our society.

At a social level, some people interpret human rights in a way which others feel infringe upon their rights. A well known example of such a conflict is "the right to life" versus "the right to choose" debate.

Even at a personal level there is often an issue of competing values. Some Australians support the notion of a right to liberty, whilst also favouring to retain the power of our legal justice system to detain indefinitely some dangerous, convicted criminals.

The strength of our human rights culture is largely determined by how we bridge the gap between theory and practice. Around the world, many of the worst types of human rights violations are in direct contradiction to local laws, charters, statutes and treaties. 

These are all reasons why we want to know which human rights and responsibilities you think should be protected and promoted.

The Committee is interested in your thoughts on this question.

The National Human Rights Online Consultation closes on Friday 26 June 2009.

Share your views!

Father Frank Brennan
Chair, National Human Rights Consultation Committee


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The comments published below represent a wide range of views and interests of the participating individuals and organisations. Statements made during online discussions are the personal opinions of the commentators and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee or Open Forum.
Open Forum, on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Department, at all times and at its absolute discretion, reserves the right to remove offensive comments from the National Human Rights Online Consultation. For your reference, any comments/messages that are offensive for the online consultation would include any or all of the following:

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  1. stiofan

    May 19, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and

    To make the most obvious point first, most Australian citizens have never uttered the Oath, because they were born into citizenship!

    More seriously, how is it possible to answer this question without acknowledging the completing claims of positivism and natural law? Fr Brennan is clearly a natural law theorist, because he draws a distinction between "our legal rights in society and our human rights". It would be interesting to know what stance the other members of the inquiry take.

    • brian

      May 19, 2009 at 11:40 am

      right to be housed articles 11 and 25 human rights

      The States MUST be made to honour these articles of international charter, so too federal Government, and if not done then this whole attempt is useless.

      I too am a homeless ALP member on DSP pension which conditions of homelessness place my life in danger and others.





      The States must be forced to act and abide, or this forum purpose shall be hot air.


    • Charlie-

      June 4, 2009 at 4:36 am

      Why utter an oath at all?

      Uttering an oath does nothing for either making a citizen or creating an attachment or engagement with the community. Uttering an oath is not even a good trivia rehearsal. Being part of the community is connections made with people, and patriotism keeps us more and more from becoming part of, or the world, a community.

      What do you want to get enlightened for? You may not like it.

    • RichardB43

      June 5, 2009 at 1:12 am

      All human rights should be protected

      Human rights should never be suspended per se.

      However, when the rights of different people and groups come in to conflict, then there is necessity to balance the conflicting rights. That is where the legal system has to come into play.

      The legal system should not be used to suppress the rights of a person or group where those rights do not come into conflict with the rights of others, rather only into conflict with a law. ie: Rights should take precendence over law, bot not over the rights of others.

      In practice, that would mean a law should only be used to suppress rights where it can be demonstrated that exercise of those rights does actual harm to or actually violates the rights of others. Not just potentially, not just in theory.

      However, suspected terrorists, unrepetant serial killers and paedophiles etc, could be detained as long as it can be demonstrated that there is actually an intention to harm others. Not just a potential, but an actual intention.

    • Aspasia

      June 24, 2009 at 11:52 am

      Which human right should be protected?
      While I entirely agree that our society should protect all human rights, because I have personally been the victim of secrecy and unsolicited State protection for reasons that I cannot comment publicly here, I believe that the core values which should underpin our society is transparency and the right to know your truth, even if it will cause you pain.  The right to know should override the right to live free of fear if that is what you choose.  The worst infringement of human rights is to be accused of madness by those who want to protect their secret at all costs. It is abuse of the worst kind and people involved in our national security find it acceptable to use with impunity. The Human Rights Commission should guide citizens in their search for truth, not hamper them and misguide them in the name of security. There should be clear guidance on the pathways to follow without having to resort to lawyers and trials that can damage the reputation of the ones we care.

  2. Bayne MacGregor

    May 19, 2009 at 3:50 pm


    On principle we should protect the rights in all the treaties we were involved in the drafting of.

    And as they are simply the understanding of the UN decleration which australia helped draft when aplied to people of Sex, Gender and Sexuality Diversity we should cover all of the Yogyakarta Principles too.

    It should be understood all human rights extend from some simple principles.

     First the assumption of Equality. Which means protection from discrimination and redress of any unfairness in society (such as affirmative action so long as a group is currently discriminated against in hiring and thus under-represented for example) are needed to ensure genuine equality not just on-paper equality.

    Next liberty, aka the total ownership mastery and control of the self. Which results in freedom of expression and the like. This is bordered only by the obligation to rights of others. Which includes the right to not have false things claimed about them. But not the right to prevent opposing views or unpopular cultures and subcultures styles of dress or the like from occuring in public ie one group imposing it's tastes on everyone else. This also means the right to reject medical treatment or decide between treatment options. Also importantly is it requires fully informed uncoerced consent for any activity involving the self of another clearly defining right and wrong on all sexual matters making abuse of children (as no child can possibky give truly informed consent to sex), rape, assault and murder all clearly contrary to the victims rights.

    Next the obligations to dependants. Whether mentaly ill, drunk, comatose or a child all choices made for a dependant must be made in oreder to maximise their free choices later in life. That means no permanant medical optional treatment that can be delayed till they can choose for themselves, so no circumcison of children, no surgical abuses of intersex children, no denial of puberty-blockers to transgender children forcing them to endure puberty they could delay till old enough to choose legally for themselves… the same principle covers them all.

    The right to and from religion, culture, sub-culture and organisation. Where peoples freedom of association comes from, their freedom to participate in religious practice as well as not to be coerced or forced into religious practice and choose not to be part of it and the same with cultural practices. Cultural practices like circumcision and some initiation rites however will need to be adjusted to correspond with the rights of children and so be delayed till they are legally of age where they can choose whether to embrace such or not of their own free will. 

    Finally the obligations to, and from, society. Where the society exists solely for the mutal benefit of all within it resulting in the obligation for all to contribute (such as via taxation) to the benefit of all especially those most in need (poor disabled etc) in terms of basic requirements for life and equality. This covers everything from the need for people to obey road laws to ensuring the homless are sheltered and fed. Its important though that an unfair law not be protected merely because it is the law, instead if the law is discriminatory it needs to be refined so as to be as fair as possible to the rights of all not just the popular or most numerous. The right to participate in government, the obligtion to vote, the right to fair representation all extend from this as does the governments obligations to the populace and their rights.

    These are simple principles from which all rights logically extend. All the consequence of the assumption of equality, liberty and the purpose of society.

     Most of which are sorely needed to be protected and promoted as I and people I know especially amongst Transgender people, the Goth subculture, a variety of Faiths as well as Atheists, Cultures and Sexualities have suffered from unequal and unfair treatment.

  3. Rebekah

    May 20, 2009 at 4:58 am

    But WHAT is defining a “right” need be enabled TO define rights

    WHAT is conducting the consultation, and therefore WHAT and WHO it will be, whom are ulimately defining how to manage maintaining human rights in this country, is the Parliamentary, and Legislative, Democracy.

     The Parliament itself is not empowered to make that definition of what human rights are, unless, as is the case, we the Australian people, are enabling the Parliament to exist, by our common willingness to live within the legislation the Parliament makes.  Therefore, it is our majority willingness to live according to the legislation of the Parliament, which enables Parliament to define what human rights are, and how to uphold human rights.

     Therefore, in every instance here in Australia, in which any individual has been prevented from being obedient to the legislation, their human rights are being infringed.

     The whole worth of the Parliament's every effort to uphold human rights, is dependent upon Parliament upholding the basic human right for us to live our lives within the rule of Australia's legislation.

     The difficulty I have faced, is having had come to know a number of Aboriginal men whom have been incarcerated in Australian prisons, each for differing lengths of time, for different reasons,  and in different ages and stages of their lives.  The one thing that every of those men had in common, and had in common also with non-Aboriginal men I have spoken to whom have "done time inside", was that they were constantly frightened even after their release, by having been physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused into imagining that it is impossible to uphold any lifestyle that is in accordance with the rule of legislation, (and therefore also democratic Parliament).  They had all been exposed to worse instances of crime within prisons than previous to entering prison, and had all been exposed to criminals whom insisted, with extreme violence, that there is no freedom for anybody inside law abiding behaviour.  The details of their experiences are too distressing for me to repeat the story of.

     What is further distressing, is that those men (and women in prisons also, but to a lesser extent), all have loved ones whose lives then become effected also.  Given the mathematical theory of six degrees of seperation, I think it is safe to assert that this matter is of concern for every Australia, and that the Parliament must give the matter every due concern.  There are former gaol inmates in this society, whom spend the rest of their lives promoting the idea that the legislative process itself is impossibly corrupt and has no context in which it can be followed; and they do not do that because they were born to be criminals, but because of the extent to which they were abused while inside prisons, (which normally includes having been forced into themselves committing acts of abuse against other men, upon threat of worse violence for both themself and the man they were being pressed into abusing:-> they all face the fears of the worst offenders, and all know of instances in which men have been killed for refusing to commit abuse of other inmates).

     The prisons are the fundamental example of where the Nation State of Australia, and her Parliamentary democracy, are not upholding law, but further, and worse, are actively involved in imposing conditions upon convicted criminals, of it being impossible to live by upholding law.  We are all effected and I want to urge every Australian to make a stand against what is being done inside the prisons. 

    Further I want to point to the fact that every prison inmate of Aboriginal ancestry, is accomodating more of these fears than are other persons, and that the irony of true forgiveness, of Australia having started as an invaders penal colony, and now it being the indigenous race whom are more incarcerated than any other people, while the "first fleeters club" is one of the most exlusive and prestigious organisations to belong to, is not lost on Aboriginal prison inmates.   One day perhaps it will be a sign of respectable social status for any of us who can define ourselves socially to have indigenous ancestry; a matter of pride in our family's longevity of Australianness. But in the meantime, Aboriginal prison inmates have the dual burden to bear, of being prevented from enabling Aboriginal culture and its laws, at the same time as being prevented from enabling legislation.

     We have the basic human right to be enabled to uphold the legislature, and to simultaneously be enabled to uphold the traditions and customs of any of Australia's cultures we participate in.


    thankyou for reading this

    • Bayne MacGregor

      May 21, 2009 at 4:43 am

      Rights don’t come from Law

      Throughout the history of Human Rights they have come from philosophy, not law. In fact frequently laws were disobeyed in order to protect rights from unjust laws contrary to them!

       The French Revolution, American War of Independance, U.K. Civil War and even our own Eureka Stockade as well as many nations involvement in WW2 (see H.G. Wells writing on rights and Roosevelts 'Four Freedoms' speech about Americas entering the War in Europe) all involved military action and even civilian armed combat against the law in order to assert or protect Rights not covered by the law.

       Australia has gone to war and been involved in peacekeeping missions because of these rights. Australia was significantly involved in the drafting of the U.N. Decleration of Universal Human Rights even, as well as other subsequent international human rights laws and ideals.

       Rights do not come from the law, they are not defined by the law. They are simply either protected by the law or abused by the law. They come from philosophy. And they have been considered a valid reason to break the law, commit acts of violence and even overthrow legal govenerment.

      The monarchy of France and much more examples may have been legal by the law of the day and there overthrow illegal acts, but are considered legitimate purely and solely by the Rights of citizens, even democracies have been overthrown or fought against because of human rights abuses so majoritanism is no excuse either.

       In Australia we have the opportunity to protect our rights without recourse to violence and revolution. But our involvement in wars and armed conflict based on the principles of human rights, many of which we helped define the international standard of, makes us a nation of hypocracy until we rectify this by formally protecting human rights in our law and importantly FROM our law.

       Legal protections of rights are and always have been a limit on the power of the state and even a democratic majority in order to help ensure that minorities and individuals do not get abused intentionally or unintentionally or as a means to an end.

      • ag02

        May 31, 2009 at 5:01 am

        Whose philosophy?

        What this philosophy you're referring to?  And does it allow for discriminating against, for example, paedophiles from working with children, or does it allow for discriminating against children who cannot get married, drink or smoke?

        What is the philosophy based on?  Is there any reason people should follow it?

        Although the law does not reflect all Human Rights they are often influenced by them which is why it is better to rely on it than on a Charter which will actually limit our rights by defining what is or isn't a right.

        What laws did involvement in WW2 break?

        And by what measure do you say 'frequently'?

        • Bayne MacGregor

          May 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm

          You may want to look into the history of human rights

          But that would make for a very long post. But you may want to look up the notions that started the french revolution, that were the basis for the USA's bill of rights and onwards. Thats centuries of thinking and devlopment. It is Human Rights Philosophy. Much of it evolved from Egalitariansim, Enlightenment Philosophies, the State of Nature (and Veil of Ignorance) arguments and various fields of Ethics.

          "And does it allow for discriminating against, for example, paedophiles from working with children, or does it allow for discriminating against children who cannot get married, drink or smoke?"

          Hmm how to explain big ideas in as small as possible a post.

          Everyones rights (just like their equality) depends on recognising the equal rights of others. A paedophile does not as a child cannot give informed consent to sex and so any sex with a child is rape and a human rights abuse. Now how we deal with those who refuse to recognise the rights of others is in itself an interesting discussion. Often it has justified war or execution.

          These days we go by the idea that jail and medical treatment for the mentally ill suffice. Till there is a truly effective treatment or rehabilitation for paedophiles then indeed preventing one from working with children is fulfilling an obligation to the rights of the child. Just like locking up a murderer protects others. However its not for revenge, we cannot torture them or do whatever we like to them, some of their rights are suspended just so that we can try and ensure they will come to respect others rights, but they do have some rights still (especially as no legal system is perfect and we must accept that even some people found guilty will truly be innocent, yet we must still defend the rights ogf others).

          A child is prevented from doing some things till they are able to make informed choices on those things. Just as some things are wrong to do to children till they can give informed consent. Same principle you see. smoking, drinking, sex etc.

          "What is the philosophy based on?"

          The idea that all people can only be treated justly if treated as equals who are equally free. Essentially the 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' with deeper understanding. For example someone who likes to be involved in fistfights can't just go and punch somone who does not, they need to understand the equivalent for that other person might be badminton or poetry or karaoke not fistfighting.

          Consider that it combines the 'do unto others' with Exodus 22:21 http://bible.cc/exodus/22-21.htm (and repeated elsewhere in the bible, it's one of my favourite pieces of biblical wisdom, and I'm a non-christian!) You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. It means you have to treat others as equal to you as well as different. You cannot apply your own rules that suit you to others it would not suit.

          "Is there any reason people should follow it?"

          Other than being a notion found in most of the worlds faiths and cultures? Yes. That it defines a system of right and wrong that is as fair as any yet devised. That allows fairness to followers of all faiths and none. That it allows fairness to people of all cultures. That it is a definition of right and wrong that does not depend on any religion. That while some few traditions must be modified (such as imposing your beliefs over others through force like terrorism which is contrary to rights, or female child genital mutilation as a child cannot possibly consent to it and it is medically unneccesary, the child can choose what religious and cultural body-modification they want when they have reached adulthood if at all) all cultures can fairly live by.

          The contrary argument, is there any reason people should not follow it? Not so kong as they want fairness for others. And if they will not treat others fairly why should others treat them fairly? The cost of fairness is fairness. How equality works. The only argument against fairness is unfairness… and that deserves only unfairness.

          "Although the law does not reflect all Human Rights they are often influenced by them"

          But it is often directly contrary to them also. 

          "which is why it is better to rely on it than on a Charter which will actually limit our rights by defining what is or isn't a right."

          How so? it limits your freedoms by defining the rights of others you must acknowledge, and limits the freedoms of others.. by ensuring everyone is equally free not some more free than others.

          "What laws did involvement in WW2 break?"

          Acts of sabotage that we might call terrorism now by freedom fighter civilians opposing their countries legal surrender and spies from allied forces are examples of how laws were considered rightly oppossed during WW2. While those acting in accordance to their countries laws were still tried for crimes against humanity.

          "And by what measure do you say 'frequently'?"

          In this context i say it related to the vast majority of human rights struggles in human history has included some. Wars and revolutions to create basic democracy, the law-breaking of the suffragettes, the Aboriginals who oppossed race-seggregation to highlight injustice and inequality. You will find few human rights causes that have not had at least one case of breaking an unjust law being considered justified. From religious freedom where Catholics were oppressed in the early colonies to the illegal protest of the first gay and lesbian mardi gras where the right to peaceful assembly was excercised to demand basic human rights.

          • ag02

            June 8, 2009 at 2:01 am


            What I don't understand is that notions of equality etc. are not the same in all these philosophies.  In every society where equality has come up there is a society where it isn't – even in the same society – think about affirmative action, that is inequality but some people accept it because it is supposed to redress past discrimination.

            Breaking the law in WWII was not breaking the law of one's own country, it was breaking the law of another's.  

            You said, "In this context i say it related to the vast majority of human rights struggles in human history has included some."

            Ah ok, I was thinking frequently as in the majority of laws have been broken.  But even then, it was society that changed from the bottom up instead of the top down – and that is far better and fairer process than imposing rights from above – especially when those rights are not clear-cut.

            You said, "A paedophile does not as a child cannot give informed consent to sex and so any sex with a child is rape and a human rights abuse."

            Who says the child cannot give informed consent?  Who says that paedophiles hurt children and it isn't just society's reaction that damages children?  (for the record I don't believe that but when there are groups out there that claim that paedophilia is ok I don't want those minority groups given protection).

            That is what I'm getting at though, we don't give groups rights just because we can, society needs to decide whether or not the impact of such groups is beneficial or harmful to people and society – that is better decided by elected representatives than judges.

            You said, "But it is often directly contrary to them also"

            Often as in most laws?  And our representatives can change laws, how do you think slavery was stopped in England?

            You said, "That it defines a system of right and wrong that is as fair as any yet devised. That allows fairness to followers of all faiths and none. That it allows fairness to people of all cultures."

            As you illustrated with genital mutilation these cultures and faiths come into conflict, they have different opinions on what is good for society, and who decides which is right?  Take the opening prayer in parliment, it's a Christian prayer but in order for it to be 'equal' every single belief system would have to be used and parliment would never actually start!  What about street signs?  They would have to be in every single language in order to accomodate different cultural groups wouldn't they?

            Then there is the issue of what is fair in one's person's mind is not fair in another's – for example, gay marriage, you think it's fair, I don't.  

            You said, "Other than being a notion found in most of the worlds faiths and cultures? Yes."

            Not equality as you think of it.  Take the Jews for example, they were to treat strangers well but they treated each other better – they could not charge another Jew interest on a loan, but they could charge foreigners.  For these cultures it was equality as long as you were part of the group.

            You said, "How so? it limits your freedoms by defining the rights of others you must acknowledge, and limits the freedoms of others.. by ensuring everyone is equally free not some more free than others."

            Because it specifically defines what our rights and freedoms are and says that's it.  But what if we find other rights in the future?  How are we going to encompass all rights?  But that is only a side issue.  What it comes down to is that a few people will be deciding what our rights are, we will not have the same influence.

            You said that 'everyone is equally free' – but you want equality between groups.  Groups are treated differently based on their impact on society and whether or not these groups are given privileges in society should be an issue decided by society as a whole.

            • Bayne MacGregor

              June 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

              Detailed response

              Affirmative action is meant to redress current issues, not past ones.

              After all if women were genuinely treated as equals we'd have an approximate 50% ratio of women in every job wouldn't we?

              When instead thats wildly out of proportion we know that inequality is still evident. Actually to allay the fears of those worried that affirmative action would go furtherthan rendering on-paper equality to swing the other way and privilege a group beyond a fair level of equitability we could always have affirmative action tied to per-capita figures and have it end when it has stabilised to a fair proportion of whatever group being represented.

              Would that seem more fair to you?

              "Breaking the law in WWII was not breaking the law of one's own country, it was breaking the law of another's. "

              For the French Resistance it was not! For the Germans who engaged in hiding and protecting Nazi's it was not!

               "Who says the child cannot give informed consent?"

              About sexual acts? Are you joking? Everyone who pays any attention to cognitive neuroscience says so just for starters as childrens brains are still developing. So their ability to consent to anything varies with age and sexual matters are amongst the last to fully do so. We already determine that they cannot give informed consent to the use of drugs like alcohol and nicotene.

              "Who says that paedophiles hurt children and it isn't just society's reaction that damages children? (for the record I don't believe that but when there are groups out there that claim that paedophilia is ok I don't want those minority groups given protection)."

              Theres a mountain of evidence that child abuse causes psychological harm intrinsicly. Whereas there is no evidence that amongst adults homosexuality, consenting BDSM, transgender etc cause any psychological harm intrinsically but the opposite, that its the discrimination that causes the harm. Take it up with science, only fringe groups with no scientific credibility claim otherwise on both counts.

              It's not like people haven't studied ir researched this stuff and published it in peer-reviewed journals and subjected it to rigorous examination. They have.

              "That is what I'm getting at though, we don't give groups rights just because we can,"

              Of course not, it's because we MUST! That any action not interfering with the rights of others is ethical and therfore is within a persons basic rights! Unless we do so then there is no validity for any claim we make on our own rights because we are stomping on others. Invalidating equality! 

              "society needs to decide whether or not the impact of such groups is beneficial or harmful to people and society – that is better decided by elected representatives than judges."

              Elected Representatives will more likely perpetuate current biases and bigotries and thus maintain current injustices.

              "As you illustrated with genital mutilation these cultures and faiths come into conflict, they have different opinions on what is good for society, and who decides which is right?"

              How about let the child choose when they are an adult, old enough to choose? Wouldn't that be the most fair? Delay the procedures till they can choose of their own free will to go with it or not and are strong enough to oppose their parents if they so wish?

              Where cultures and faiths come into conflict with cultures and faiths both can co-exist so long as individuals have their free choice, when they come into conflict with an individuals choice over themselves they become wrong. Seems clear-cut to me.

              "Take the opening prayer in parliment, it's a Christian prayer but in order for it to be 'equal' every single belief system would have to be used and parliment would never actually start!"

              Oh c'mon theres heaps of fair compromises. A minutes silent personal prayer. A rotating prayer where each faith and denomination in the country gets their day. Or let parlimentarians attend church/temple/coven etc of their choice the day beforehand if at all.

              "What about street signs? They would have to be in every single language in order to accomodate different cultural groups wouldn't they?"

              Why? Theres a big difference between having signs in the most commonly spoken international language (english) and pushing only one religious set of practices into goverment when no religious practice is even needed in government whereas street signage is needed.

              Though speaking of languages don't you agree that white Australia has an obligation to preserve the hundreds of indiginous languages at risk of dying out?

              "Then there is the issue of what is fair in one's person's mind is not fair in another's – for example, gay marriage, you think it's fair, I don't"

              Can you give me an objective reason why it's unfair? Especially as many cultures in history have had same-sex marriage in the past. How would two gay people getting married effect you? To be unfair one person must get more than another yes? So how is it remotely possible that its unfair? Currently straights get more than gays, clearly unfair i would say. So how is it rationally, objectively, remotely unfair to you if two gay friends of mine can get the same privileges you get? How is equality somehow unequal and inequality somehow equal?

              "Because it specifically defines what our rights and freedoms are and says that's it. But what if we find other rights in the future?"

              All rights come from specific principles. If we find that new circumstances or understandings mean those pronciples determine rights exist we did not consider before then we review the system and protect them too. Example: The Yogyakarta Principles show the Rights of the UNs original Universal Rights decleration when understood in principle supports rights for Trangender, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals etc.

              "How are we going to encompass all rights?"

              By stating the principles as more important than the specific wording. 

              "But that is only a side issue. What it comes down to is that a few people will be deciding what our rights are, we will not have the same influence."

              How ever so? How would any group no longer have a fair influence? Surely the only thing lost would be some groups unfair influence? Sure you won't be able to impose your version of rights on everyone else anymore. Smaller groups wont get picked on by the big bullies of the playground anyomore, everyone will have to be fair.

              "You said that 'everyone is equally free' – but you want equality between groups. Groups are treated differently based on their impact on society"

              Fine. One example: Transgender acceptance has a positive influence on society by removing the harm of oppression allowing them to be productive parts of society, discrimination causes great harm including mental-health issues, suicide etc. Therfore you must be pro TG rights by your own argument.

              Same goes for Goths. Shown by sociological studies to be not harmful to society. Therefore by your own argument you must be pro-goth too.

              Show me where any of the people whose equality I'm advocating for: Transgender (from Crossdressers/Bi-genders like myself to Transsexuals of varying operative needs), Intersex, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, the Disabled, Indiginous Peoples, Atheists, All Religions, Cultural Groups etc.. how the equality of those causes harm to society?

              "and whether or not these groups are given privileges in society should be an issue decided by society as a whole."

              Why? So far society has been abusive for no good reason, to women, to non-whites, to Goths, to Transgender people, to Intersex people etc etc etc. And the excessive efforts and costs of those who have gained some better treatment has been far too much to call remotely fair.

              • Bayne MacGregor

                June 9, 2009 at 9:45 am

                More on Anti-Goth/Emo etc hate-crimes and discriminations

                This blog http://alterophobia.blogspot.com/ is a good source of information on the discriminations faced by subcultures like Goth and Emo around the world listing cases from Australia http://alterophobia.blogspot.com/2009/02/emo-bullying-in-australia.html , The UK (where there has been recently a hate-murder, brutal bashings and the cutting off of a Goths ear), Mexico (where there were anti-Emo riots), Russia (where calls to ban Goths from government buildings were made) and even Egypt.

                Most media representations of goths are false negative steretypes, mockery and villification unrelated to the positive reality shown by studies like this http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4828230.stm

                While it's been a fair few years since I personally last was misstreated for being a goth a young goth woman friend of mine has suffered harassment for being Goth in several towns she's lived in including mine within the last 12 months and I've recently heard of a case where DOCS were called on a single mother because she was a Goth and "dressed like she was depressed".

                • ag02

                  June 19, 2009 at 10:17 am

                  That’s harassment?

                  "dressed like she was depressed"

                  That's what you consider harassment?

                  • Bayne MacGregor

                    June 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm

                    Calling D.O.C.S.Because Of Clothing Style Isn’t Harassment?

                    Of course someone calling D.O.C.S. on someone because of their style of clothing is harassment!

                    How can it not be discrimination when it is calling child welfare on a mother because of her clothing style!

                    Seriously you didn't notice the bit about D.O.C.S? I said it plainly enough!

                    You seriously think that isn't harasssment? You think having child services called on someone for their clothing style is not harassment?

                • Suze

                  June 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

                  Goth parents do suffer discrimination.

                  I can relate to this.

                  My ex-partner and I were discriminated against by a parenting support service, maternal health nurses and child protection workers and i beleive it was specifically because we were "goths".

                  To detail my experience would just cause me too much pain as the whole ordeal was distressing, humiliating and stigmatised me as a mother at a time when i was trying to get parenting support which instead turned into a nightmare where i was made to jump through hoops for 6 mnths while being scrutinised for every little thing i did.  Even my baby was being scrutinised by people who were intent to find something wrong rather than actually "support" a struggling fatigued new mum and her bubby. The ordeal further socially isolated me even more so then i already was being a goth looking mother. Even contributed to the breakdown of my childs father and mine relationship.

                  Eventually i found a non-judgemental GP and maternal nurse but really there are many health proffessionals and human service deptments that consider "goths" to be drug affected, self harming, unintellegent, suicidal, homicidal deviants. 

                  The general public think even less of goths.

                  I was eventually advised by many other proffessionals we were treated the way we were because we looked goth and we fit a stereo type.



              • Bayne MacGregor

                June 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm

                Important Correction and Apology

                In my hasty typing and poor editing i misswrote or missedited something that results in not only not the meaning I intended but is offensive.

                Luckily I caught it myself. Still I want to correct what I wrote and apologise for anyone possibly effected and offended by it.

                My sentence incorrectly reads:

                "For the French Resistance it was not! For the Germans who engaged in hiding and protecting Nazi's it was not!"

                When it was meant to and should have read (with correction in bold):

                "For the French Resistance it was not! For the Germans who engaged in hiding and protecting Jews from the Nazi's it was not!"

                My sincere apologies.

  4. Fr Frank Brennan

    May 21, 2009 at 6:53 am

    As we have travelled around Australia…

    As we have travelled around Australia visiting and listening to people in cities as well as in remote and rural communities, we have heard time and time again, that the human rights of Indigenous people need to be protected and promoted. On this forum, we have heard of the difficulties of Indigenous people in prisons as well as broader arguments of equality and liberty for all. The vulnerable people of any society require specific assistance in protecting and promoting their human rights. In Tasmania we heard the pleas for assistance of the elderly, in Victoria we heard that moving from the city to the country for a disabled person is like taking a backward step of 50 years. In regional and remote communities we always hear of the need for greater services and culturally sensitive service delivery. On this forum we have heard a call for 'real' equality instead of just equality on paper.

    Which human rights in particular of Indigenous people need enhanced protection and what other vulnerable groups in our society do you think need assistance?

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Bayne MacGregor

      May 22, 2009 at 4:34 am

      Culture and Beliefs

      The devestation of Indiginous Cutlure and Beliefs is an important issue I've been aware of from talking to, knowing and being related to indiginous people.

       The loss of language and identity is profound. Because of the stolen generation many Indiginious people have lost their heritage. An opt-in genetic mapping project could help people find family and history and identity. Resources should be spent to preserve indinginous languages. The right of aboriginal children to learn their language and be taught bi-linguilly is vital.

       The destruction of Indiginous spiritual practices by invasive well-funded religious groups is also a major issue. There needs to be the option made available to all indiginous peoples to learn their Indiginous faith and not be coerced into or lured into other faiths and be free to make their own religious choices in an informed manner. So not only does Indiginous spiritual practices need to be taught to Indiginous children so they may choose for themselves what to believe but all charity work must be examined for religious teaching in conjunction with charity work and that made illegal.

      By all means those of religious faith should be able to worship personally and in their community, and to have available religious teachings for those wanting to learn, and to do charity work, but the charity work must be kept totally seperate from religion or it cheapens both and is manipulative resulting in serious damage.

       The loss of GLBT traditions amongst Indiginous peoples is a massively damaging example. Sistergirls and others face substantial discrimination amongst a people that once accepted them and had dreaming stories about them. The history and culture of Indiginous people including the Indiginous GLBT community needs to be taught to Indiginous and non-indiginous children and to the community at large.

      All this is important to overcome the Internalised Oppression that is the inevitable result on oppressed groups that harms them and holds them back from prospering.

       So the right to culture and freedom of reliogion of Indiginous people needs protecting and substanial redress.

      As for other vulnerable groups the list is staggering.

      Transgender, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Elderly, Disabled, Mentally Ill, Subcultures that face discrimination and villification like Goth Emo and Punk, Athiest as well as Non-Christian and Minority-Christian faiths, the unemployed and the Intellectuals who in our sport-focussed and anti-intellectual culture face substantial discrimination… and thats all just counting groups that friends and family of mine have experienced discrimination with.

      • Tamsin White

        May 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

        Children’s rights.

        Good evening,

        I watched the story on "Sunday Night*" about male circumcision in infants, and I've had strong feelings against it for many years now. In fact, since I first really learned about it, I never agreed with it. Some of the reasons I disagree with male circumcision in infants;

        – It's physically destructive.
        It removes a part of the baby's healthy body, for what I feel is largely for looks alone in contemporary society. I understand that it once was a religious tradition, and I have nothing against a grown, adult male undergoing circumcision for himself if he wishes, for whatever reason he may have. I've heard that people think it reduces AIDS, HIV, Cervical Cancer and other diseases. But surely there is a much safer way? Safe sexual practises, not surgery.
        Every surgical procedure has risks. Why subject a healthy infant to those risks? There has been cases where a part of the penis was damaged, and every foreskin contains a lot of nerve endings. Removing the foreskin removes a lot of the feeling in the penis head.

        – It's emotional abuse.
        A very interesting and somewhat disturbing point made by the report on 'Sunday Night,' is that the child is subjected to "the birth of the dissociative state," which is shown during the operation, in the baby's blank stare, making clear that he is emotionally "not there." I can say with all certainty, that they are correct in this report. I have personally been subjected to abuse, and I too had the same stare as the young boy in the video.
        While I acknowledge that different forms of abuse have different outcomes, I also know that dissociation is often a common result. 

        – It's physical abuse.
        Honestly, all you have to do is watch a circumcision take place. You will hear the unique crying of the baby as he feels physical pain, both from the anaesthetic needle, and the actual cutting. As sometimes anaesthetic is just as painful as the cut and is not used.
        Also note, upon watching the procedure, the helplessness of the child. He has to lie there, and accept what these adults do to him. The only voice he has to say 'No!' is his crying and he cries in objection and nobody takes notice. He has no strength to combat them, and he cannot escape. He has NO CHOICE but to accept the pain they inflict upon him. He also gets no say in whether or not he keeps his foreskin. Obviously a newborn baby cannot consent to such things, but there in lies the ethical problem. 

         He cannot consent.

        When pain is inflicted upon another, that affects his body for the rest of his life and removes a part of his body, if he has not consented to this, is that not robbing him of his right? His right to own his body?

         I strongly urge you to please revise the rights of children in Australia, help stop them from being abused. 

        Thank you,

        * Source: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunday-night/video/-/watch/13629907/

        • Bayne MacGregor

          May 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm

          Consent and Protection from Imposed Permanant Changes is Key

          I agree, thats a massive issue and not just with male circumcision.

          Intersex children are all too often unneccessarily surgically altered as children and all too often the sex assigned to them does not end up being the correct one but the surgery is done, the harm is done and cannot be undone.

          But if the surgery was delayed untill the child was old enough to choose for themselves their would be no injustice.

          And the samething occurs to many Transgender children but through Inaction rather than Action. Going through puberty that matches their outer body but not their neurology causes much harm to many Transgender children. However allowing the option of using Hormone Blockers to Temporarily delay puberty till the child is old enough to choose solves the problem.

          In each case what would be a valid thing for someone old enough to decide to have done, circumcision for whatever reason religious, culutral or otherwise, genital 'normalisation' surgery for an Intersex person to the sex they define for themselves as correct or a Transgender person choosing the hormonal changes based on external anatomy that would occur without hormone blockers or use medical treatment to go through the changes appropriate to their internal neurology would all be unethical unjust and wrong to be imposed on children.

          Protecting children from unneccessary permanant changes to their bodies before they have the power to consent is key on each of these issues.

        • cmpmal

          May 27, 2009 at 8:26 am

          Male circumcision

          Dear Tamsin, I have two sons both of whom are circumcised.  I have not regretted the decision for one moment.

           I ask you, do you stop your children from being vaccinated because the are not able to consent to it?

           There is now significant medical evidence to show that circumcision is desirable, and amusingly (in light of your opposition) the greatest benefit is in the women that circumcised men have sex with – their likelihood of cervical cancer is significantly reduced!

          This is addition to such significant  benefits such as ease of cleanliness and the obvious one, aesthetics 🙂  

          Seriously though, aren't there some much more significant things going on in the world (i.e. hunger!) that you might like to spend your precious time on? 

          • Bayne MacGregor

            May 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

            Whose Regret? What about the Childs Regret?

            It is not your regret that matters but the possibility no matter it's odds that your children may regret that it had been done to them later in life that matters. Children are not possessions parents have rights over but dependants they have obligations too.

            Whether Male Circumcision, Female Circumcision or Intersex Infant Genital Surgery the child may well regret the decision that was made when the decision could easilly be put off till they achieve adulthood.

            The decreased chance of picking up and transmitting AIDS and HPV etc through penile sexual activity is of little benefit to a small child yes? And religious and cultural choices can be delayed till the child themselves chooses them yes? And cleanliness is solved by simply washing sufficiently which one would hope would be done regardless yes?

            And in what way is the sexual aesthetic tastes of a parent about their own childs genitals at all appropriate?

            Choices like these should be left to the child. Vaccination has an imediate neccessary often life-saving benefit for purely medical purposes whereas the benefits from STD reduction and Aesthetics should not be factors till the child is old enough to be consentingly sexually active, and thus old enough to choose for themselves what surgeries they do or do not go through.

            And as there are plenty of men, women and intersex people who regret their genitals being mutilated without their consent it is an important issue to them.. and many human rights issues only matter to those negatively effected by them.. but the same rights define the right of it and the wrong of it.

            Let adults choose what cosmetic surgery is done to their genitals based on their own aesthetics, not their parents aesthetics! Let adults choose what sexual-health procedures they undergo when they can be legally sexually active and make such choices legally, not parents make them for them. And seeing as many of those Intersex Infants get assigned the wrong sex for that surgery and have a great deal to be angry about later in life let Intersex children decide their own sex and determine what surgeries are done to their own genitals.

            The child is the one that has to live with the decision. It's their right to make the choice themselves upon reaching the age when most of those benefits would be of any use anyway.

    • MC

      May 27, 2009 at 8:47 am

      Human Rights for Indigenous People
      The rights as specified under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be the minimum Indigenous communities should expect. It appears that the Federal Government, both past and present, take an overly parental view when deciding what rights need to be addressed, as opposed to treating Inidigenous communities as equal to all other Australians. Addressing Indigenous rights seems to often be on government terms and free of meaningful consultation. If you had to pick a most important right I would start with Article 2 – the right to not be discriminated against, which would refer to the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory.

    • Women for Wik

      June 5, 2009 at 10:20 am

      Outstation Movements don’t display evidence based policy

      Women for wik is a network which respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's rights and capacities to control their lands and communities. Despite the Apology, progress has been slow and sometimes policies have gone backwards, often because of relentlessly negative reporting of crises and deficits. These ‘stories' have led to drastic Interventions, takeovers and funding shifts which weaken local communities and undermine the often under-reported progress.

      Women For Wik will soon be launching their website http://www.whatsworking.com.au/ to counter the unbalanced reporting and better inform people of real progress in areas where local control and involvement makes the difference. We want to document examples of programs, policies and activities which are actually working or have been until they were defunded!

      Women For Wik first emerged 12 years ago in support of Native Title and was reactivated 3 years ago in response to the Intervention, in particular to the way things were done. There is an undoubted need for more funding but with local involvement and decision making to make it work.  Every study of top down policies shows why they don't work and how they have proven disastrous to culture and living standards.

      A current example of this is the latest proposals to de-fund the Outstation movement and so push people off their land to urban centres. Outstations have worked in many cases, as people on their own land avoid inter-group tensions, grog and despair and nurture their economies and cultures. The problems of Wadeye and other such mission based townships with multiple language groups illustrate the issues.

      Women For Wik wants to hold governments to their commitment to evidence based policies by offering access to evidence of the programs that have worked, are working and could work with appropriate support. There are many evaluations that show clearly that centralised bureaucratic actions cannot work. Local cultures are diverse and local involvement is essential to making things work.

      We have the support of a wide range of groups and individuals and offer the signatories below to attest to this. We want the Governments involved to re-think their policies and programs and move away from centralised paternalistic approaches. We hope the wider community will have a clearer understanding of what works and will support policies that respect and enhance the capacities of our Indigenous communities to manage their own lives.

      Women for Wik is a network which respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's rights and capacities to control their lands and communities. Despite the Apology, progress has been slow and sometimes policies have gone backwards, often because of relentlessly negative reporting of crises and deficits. These 'stories' have led to drastic Interventions, takeovers and funding shifts which weaken local communities and undermine the often under-reported progress.

    • Chris Baulman

      June 10, 2009 at 4:32 am



      We know there is nothing like a threat to our personal security to shake us out of our complacency and motivate us to action.

      Whatever the origins of terrorism, its broad support base is fed by the insecurity people feel, especially in the desperation and injustice of poverty. 

      We know poverty breeds terrorists, and how important it is to create opportunity for people to be secure.  

      We should also heed the warning about forced migration due to climate change and conflict over resources. 

      Unless we can work out how to provide opportunities whereby everyone can help feed and house themselves, welfare, overseas aid and the cost of both internal and border security could undermine our economy.  

      Wealth creation has been the main response of the economic theorists, but wealth creation isn't going to happen fast enough, or for those who most need it first.

      In any event, wealth creation of the type people currently aspire to has proven to be an environmental disaster. This can only get significantly worse as more people take it on. 

      A more direct and effective strategy would be to empower the poor to achieve secure shelter and food for themselves by ensuring rightful and responsible land access with accountability for its use. 

      As only a government can do this, the motivation for it to do so would be boosted if there was an effective working model in the west.

      A successful model here first would show that even though we westerners could pursue the lifestyle those in poor nations currently aspire to, many here find this new model for providing for housing and food security more achievable, attractive and sustainable. 

      Participation in community activities could provide for a higher quality of life and improve participants' material standard of living. It could also enhance the enjoyment and security of the neighbourhood for those market economy workers returning home each day.  

      The know-how and organisation needed can be free and simple to follow through an internet resource and forum as is already available for creating neighbourhoods that work at http://www.ntw.110mb.com/

      As the ever more highly competitive economy expands, neighbourhood roles can expand to include more and more people for the welfare of all.  

      Roles in neighbourhood development could thus warrant a sustainable share in the benefits of the global economy.  

      There are many personal, social and economic advantages to this proposal. 

      Any unemployed person should be able to choose to work for any non profit community organisation(s) which meet government approval. I see no need for case by case supervision, maximum period of involvement, or requirement to show that employment is a likely outcome. 

      Chris Sidoti – Commissioner HREOC"The Project (NTW) embodies a unique model for guaranteeing some basic human rights in a manner that has the potential to be both economically sustainable and environmentally sensitive."

    • AnnieB

      June 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

      children and special needs

      Hi, I went to a regional roundtable but thought I would also post here. I would like to see those who are most vulnerable – the children and those with special needs, disabilities who probably will not have been heard due to communication issues – protected and given assistance to communicate their needs for protection.


    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 17, 2009 at 8:54 am

      Stolen Children, of all races!

      Australia has had for many years a barbaric practice of stealling children.

      This state-based child trafficking has been acknowledged when it comes to Indiginous peoples, though little functionally has been done beyong the word sorry.

      However someone I know who finds it too painful to speak out herself has asked me to raise here the rest of the issue.

      The coerced and forced taking of children from people of all races. She, a single parent having just given birth was forced by an official to sign a document she was deliberately and actively stopped from reading by a hand being placed over the text when she tried to read it that resulted in her newborn child taken away and adopted.

      And of course there was the transport of children from the U.K. to Australia.

      All these families deserve apologies. All deserve action.

      The parents and children have a right to, if they wish it, have contact and access to their biological family.

      They have a right to their heritage of beliefs, culture and traditions.

      I would reccomend an opt-in genetic database (made secure and private) that would enable stolen children to track down their origins in land and culture and heritage both amongst Indiginous groups whose once diverse cultures have been drasticly impacted but also all other racial and ethnic groups.

      But whatever practical measure taken these people are owed by the Government, the Churches and the Australian People who supported or allowed to continue this horrific child-trafficking practice for the harm they have experienced and the loss of their cultural rights.

    • lllevettolson

      June 19, 2009 at 7:27 am

      The Emerging Right to Identity

      I apparently missed the cutoff date for submissions to the National Consultation, but this is the submission content I wanted to file: 

      Emerging Rights

      The Right to Identity

      I am an Australian citizen, but part of my background includes a North American Stolen Generation bloodline.  I do not know where the land of those ancestors was – but I know none inhabit that land any longer.  Almost no one remains who speak any of the related languages of my likely ancestry.  No one left alive knows the laws, governance, traditions, and social-political-economic structures that preserved those people for countless generations.  That part of my identity is lost forever. 

      This is a simple, if brutal, fact of history.  Right to identity was not part of the early USA Bill of Rights, nor in the French les droits humaine, nor the original Charter of the United Nations.  Yet current and continuing conflicts around the world are based on the loss of those same three key components of a Right to Identity: Land, Law, and Language.

      Now I am working with Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.  I see before my eyes the process unfolding that destroyed my own ancestors' identity in an act of genocide.   

      I watch as land that was (belatedly) promised in perpetuity is mandatorily ‘exchanged' in return for access to basic services of health, education, and the necessities of life.  I watch as those who know the Law that has preserved their culture for millennia are ignored, humiliated, and publicly rebuked by people who know nothing about them.  I watch as complex local languages older than any others in the world are completely marginalised because only English will be taught in schools, and only English will be accepted as the means to secure the resources for survival.

      I am witnessing the Right to Identity being trampled, every day, in every interaction with the dominant society.  Without the protection of some form of binding Charter that cannot be set aside on pretexts that suit the government(s) of the day – a Charter that names the Right to Identity in a way that ensures the preservation of and respect for land, Law, and language – the future of the First Australians is in imminent jeopardy.Many rights of the whole community remain unprotected without such a Charter: but what of our right to pass on to our grandchildren a nation that honours its original inhabitants and learns from their wisdom?  The lack of such a Charter at this very moment in history is allowing a process that will leave Australia forever impoverished and shamed.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 19, 2009 at 3:43 pm

        I Concur !

        I have been discussing this here as part of the Right to Culture.

        It also intersects with other rights as for example Transgender Equality and fair treatment and anti-dicrimination protection based on ender-identity and expression is vital for Indiginous Sistergirl traditions such as that of the Tiwi Islands and other parts of Australia, and that is but one of many examples.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 19, 2009 at 4:38 pm

      Freedom of Association and From Discrimination

      One of the common missunderstandings of a seeming clash of rights is between these two.

      So it is worth defining the limits where they form a logical mutual boundary.

      A persons freedom of association extends throughout their personal life. Who the choose to socialise with, what organisations they do or do not wish to join all come under this freedom.

      But peoples right to protection from discrimination extends to all of the benefits living in a country/community provides.

      So as long as a person or group is providing a for-profit service they must be bound by anti-discrimination rights. All government and government supported services too (remembering that true equality may require some period of affirmative action till measurable equality is achieved) must take this into account.

      For example: Your local pub can't keep people out because of their race or ethnicity, but it doesn't mean you have to include that person amongst your group of friends.

      While a church, which doesn't sell it's religious services by charging for admission etc, does not have to let non-faithful or those of other faiths etc into their religious rituals if they so wish.

      A government-supported charity though would have to be non-discriminatory whether religious or not.

      A non-profit social club that meets for monthly BYO barbeques could define it's membership however they wish. One that charges fees, provides services to it's members of some sort and makes a profit would.

      Why? Because as our country is a capitalist economy everyone needs equal access fairly to any business. And Government services exist for all not just some, provisions for measurable real-world equality enable government to concentrate more services to those with greatest need, but not to those more popular at the expense of those less popular.

      Whereas Individuals in their personal life including non-profit groups can associate with whoever they wish and avoid whoever they wish when they are behind a counter of a shop or at a workdesk they are obliged to everyones rights.

      A good example of this is a police officer. They cannot arrest only those they don't like and let go those they do like, that would be corruption. The same is true for all neccessary community services and bussinesses.

      Another good example this time involving religious freedom is a doctor. A Jehovah's Witness has a right to decline a blood transfusion for themselves, even life saving. But if the Jehovah's Witness is an emergency room doctor at a public hospital they cannot impose that choice over other non-Jehovahs Witness patients.

      All such positions have what is called in Philosophy an Ethical Obligation Of Duty. The Postie, the person at the Sandwhich Counter or selling pies or any other business or essential service provider has such an obligation while doing their job not to discriminate. They cannot claim their freedom of association allows them to deny fair treatment/service/bussiness to any group (even if that group are Bikies.. the other side of the freedom of association right). When they clock off though, who they chat to at the pub or hang with on the weekend is totally up to them.

  5. Fr Frank Brennan

    May 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Economic, social and cultural rights?

    One of the earlier comments on this page suggests that Australia should protect and promote all of the rights it has committed to internationally. Australia has been a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights since 1976. These rights include the right to an adequate standard of living (including adequate housing), the right to work and the right to free primary education. Do you think that rights of this kind should be protected and promoted? Are they adequately protected and promoted in Australia today?  

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Bayne MacGregor

      May 28, 2009 at 6:15 am

      Time to Practice what we Preached

      Australia was significantly responsible for social and economic rights being in the original universal decleration of the U.N.

      So don't we have an obligation to practice what we preached to others? Yes it would mean greater cost or taxation of those more wealthy, more investmant into dealling adequately with unemployment, mental health issues etc.

      But then the function of a society is to benefit it's members so we each have an obligation to that end especially when we benefit fom it. we pay taxes to that end, whatever the infrastructure, legislation and the like.

      As for whether these rights are sufficiently protected or promoted… is there any person in this country who is homeless and not so by pure choice? Yes. So then the answer is no they are not sufficiently protected or promoted. Are there people who are unemployed, underemployed or not emplyed in certain jobs beause of their culture, subculture, religion, gender, sexuality and expressions of these etc? Yes, this is so. So in that too the answer is no, enough has not been done.

      Statistics provide an effective measure of our success. When women have 51% of jobs at all levels, when Indiginous people are 2.6% of the jail population, when every minority group is also proportionately visible and successfull for their proportion of population and not over-represented amongst the underprivileged then we will know we have done enough at that time. That this is far from the case shows us we need to do far more.

      If we had genuine equality we'd get equal results.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 1, 2009 at 3:33 pm

      Gender, Culture and Sub-Culture Rights

      Three distinct areas of major concern to me and people I know relate to Gender, to Cultural Rights and to Subculture-rights.

      Firstly Gender.

      The sex and gender diverse community suffers shocking levels of discrimination in Australia that effects the daily lives of many.

      As such Australia needs to fulfill it's obligations in the Yogyakarta Principles. http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/

      Especially important is the protection of peoples right to a self-defined Gender Identity to end the abominable injustices done to Transsexuals such as the forced sterilisations and forced divorces where to get some of the same rights as most Australians they must submit to these procedures. Forced sterilisation is something we normally associate with the practices of Nazi Germany not modern Australia and yet this coercive policy does just that. If people consent freely to such procedures that is their right, when they must go through it in order to be treated like an ordinary person that is abominable.

      Also important is the right to Gender Expression. This doesn't just cover many forms of Transgender people, including the much-maligned missrepresented and vilified Crossdressers and the oft-ignored Genderqueers but it also covers the entire population. Let me explain.

      A man maligned for being not masculine enough or for being effeminate, whether a metrosexual, an androgynous goth, a male-to-female crossdresser or a camp homosexual has been discriminated against for their Gender Expresion. Even a thoroughly average man may be mistreated for not being masculine enough.

      A man maligned for being too masculine is also discriminated against for their Gender Expression.

      Women face this too, being fired for having too masculine a haircut or not wearing make-up for example. They too face discrimination based on gender expression. From the most masculine of women to the most feminine.

      Yet often that is not considered sex-discrimination so there is no protection forit even though the discrimination is based on sex/gender-stereotypes.

      Australia has a responsibility towards fixing this not only for the injustices common to Transgender people in most of the modern world which it has recognised and which Australia has signed United Nations Declerations on already! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_declaration_on_LGBT_rights but for the destruction and damage of gender-diverse traditions amongst Australias Indiginous peoples as well as the need to respect the gender-diverse traditions of our neighbours such as Samoa and Tonga.

      This article on the surviving sistergirls or Yimpininni tradtions of the Tiwi Islands is one example. http://aboriginalrights.suite101.com/article.cfm/indigenous_homosexuality That is their cultural traditional and religious right!

      The right to, and also from, cultural traditions is a vital one. People must be free to learn about and participate in their cultural traditions. They must also not be forced to either! Whether a scarrification initiation ritual or circumcision people should not be forced to go through these against or without their informed consent. They should also not be denied them when they can and do give truly informed uncoerced consent.

      People should not be discriminated against for displaying emblems of their faith or culture, for wearing cultural dress. Beyond minimum occupational health and safety requirements people should not be forced to hide their culture or be denied employment because of refusal to abandon it. Neither can they force others to obey or adopt their cultural traditions.

      The same goes for sub-cultures like Goth and Emo. Plenty of Goths I know have faced discrimination because they look different. I've seen a lot of vilification of Emo culture. Few piercings and no tattoos interfere with a persons capacity to do their job.

      So peoples right to self expression, to self-identification and their right to freedom from discrimination needs to cover Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Culture and Sub-culture.

    • Suze

      June 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      Public housing on demand, no more waiting list la la land!

      I think these rights should be and are not adequately protected in Australia.

      Poor people shouldn't have to beg. To beg is to exist without dignity and that is what the most disadvantaged are forced to do just to aquire adequate affordable "safe" housing.

      Housing should be a fundamental right for all Australians. Not just a shack with a tin shed or more ghettos in the sky like many of the highrise apartments.

      There should not be such an infinite waiting list. Public housing for those disadvantaged should be available on demand. Affordable housing for all Australians should be available on demand.

      Many people especially families are housed in unsuitable public housing. 

      My child and i have been on an early housing transfer list for over 3 yrs and counting. We are considered priority or "early housing" yet we are ignored because simply there is not enough housing.

      I just can't afford private rental as a single mother. My child has special needs and the current housing is exacebating my mental health issues and affecting my childs development and ability to thrive.

      We also have mould and mice! Both hazzards, both serious health concerns and Office of housing are not remedying the problem that is due to the inadequate structure of the building. Instead many of the Housing officers are arrogent and treat tenants like we are second class citizens and like we should be grateful to "them" personally for our housing. This is not dignity.

      We should all have the right to housing but we should all have the right to safe and adequate housing.

      -Homeless people need housing

      -Those at risk of homelessness need housing

      -Those in unsuitable accomodation need housing

      It's one thing to read about the Government throwing money towards public housing and social housing (what is social housing anyway?) but it's another thing waiting on a housing list for years in hopelessness for a transfer etc.

      It's very difficult to get your life in order if you don't have a home to feel safe in. 

      If you don't have the basic needs you cannot fulfil all other needs.

  6. donaldritchie

    May 29, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Prioritise the Fundamentals

    Without detracting from the value of what are generally considered "secondary rights" (food, water, hygiene, employment etc.), I believe that, as a priority, political rights must first be protected.

    Our democracy assumes that Parliament will continue to uphold political rights – such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and so forth – but without these rights secured in a Human Rights instrument of some kind, then they are easily (and constantly) chipped away by numerous pieces of legislation. Never one sledgehammer blow (which would alert an apathetic populace), but achieving the same with a thousand little chisels.

    Without these bedrock rights, argument and progress upon other rights becomes all the more difficult, if not impossible.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a solid foundation from which to draw the rights needing immediate protection. Its articles are as relevant now as when written, and it is as uncontroversial as such an instrument could possibly be, and therefore more likely to be accepted politically.

    At minimun, Australian Human Rights law must be based upon an Equal Protection guarantee: "All citizens are to be guaranteed equal preotection under the law." It is the essence of the Rule of Law and the legal form of the "golden rule", which is embraced by almost all cultures.


    • stiofan

      June 4, 2009 at 5:03 am

      What a complete waste of time!

      Having reviewed the comments on this page, including Fr Brennan's, I think that it is obvious just what a complete waste of time and money this exercise is. The contributions fall into three broad categories:

      * the uncritical acceptance of natural law

      * special pleading

      * Fr Brennan's "paternal Headmaster" interjections (which, I notice, haven't addressed the issue I originally raised, about whether the other Great & Good are natural law ahherents).

      It is almost scary to think about the content of "human rights" legislation based on these witterings!

      The joke (and reality) is that, at the end of the day, we will get exactly what Canberra believes is politically useful to the Government. In other words, to put it in very simple terms, our "rights" will be whatever is useful to our rulers.

      • RichardB43

        June 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

        What a rubbish way of holding a broad ranging discussion

        A sinlge sequential blog to sensibly discuss a wide range of human rights. What a complete joke. This is totally inadequate. It's not even a forum, just a single blog stream!

        Needs something like a Wiki, with a moderator, to help the discussion be a bit structured, focus discussion on certain topics.

        • sally.rose

          June 5, 2009 at 12:17 am

          wiki tools

          Hi RichardB43

          Your sugestion of using a wiki tool for forums such as this is a good one.  Open Forum has already identified it as an option for future public consultations.  

          Thanks for the feedback

          Sally Rose


        • RichardB43

          June 5, 2009 at 1:32 am

          This method is so weak as to make the process invalid

          After making the comment "What a rubbish way" I still persevered and made several comments. But I am now giving up in disgust. This is a totally inadequate method, and this is probably reflected by the totally inadequate level of participation.

          The method and participation are so poor that this really should be discounted as any form of "consultation" at all. Either do the job properly, or not at all.

          In another place I have used a system called "Bang The Table", and critcised that for being pretty poor. But it beats this method by a mile. 

          It is so easy to set up and manage something far more adequate to the task. See http://www.hornsby.wetpaint.com as a example.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

        Analysis Requested

        So what catagory do you find my posts falling into?

        I welcome your anlysis.

        Mind you, I do not consider that i concur with Natural Law but rather Reciprocal Ethics. Unless you consider them one and the same which I at present do not. I'd like to hear what specifically you find fault with in the views I have expressed.

      • sally.rose

        June 5, 2009 at 2:14 am

        Participation is the key to any consultation key working

        Hi Stiofan

        This forum is not in and of itself a perfect way to conduct a public consultation, but it was never supposed to be.

        One of the keys to ssuccesful public consultation is accepting that one medium ca't be all things to all people. That's why you need a range of options.  

        This online forum is just one small part of the overall National Human Rights Consultation. If you want to see more about the other ways they have been collecting public feedback through in person community roundtables, host your own community roundtables and online submissions you should check out their site http://www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au/

        If you think everything people are talking about here is a wasted of time, then by all means change the subject. What are your thoughst on the 4 main questions posed by this forum?:

        Which human rights and corresponding responsibilities should be protected and promoted?

        Are these rights and responsibilities adequately protected and promoted now?

        How could these rights and responsibilities be further protected and promoted in the future?

        Should Australian have a statutory bill or charter of rights?   

        Sally Rose


        • stiofan

          June 25, 2009 at 4:20 am

          Participation is the key to any consultation key working


          Are you part of the National Human Rights Consultation secretariat? I hope not, because you appear to be unable to grasp the point I am making. Alternatively, you simply haven't read what I wrote.

          I'll try to put it in simpler terms.

          Let's pretend that I'm in a hardware store. A sales assistant comes up to me and asks, "What colour of toilet seat are you looking for?"

          A group of people gather around and begin debating what colour of toilet seat they like.

          Can you see what's missing here? No-one has asked, "Do you want a toilet seat?".

          This forum is exactly the same. Fr Brennan has posed a number of questions, but those questions are all dependent upon more fundamental questions: what are "human rights" and what is their relationship with law?

          It is simply daft to ask "which human rights" should be protected without first answering those questions. It doesn't take a philosopher to see that, without debating the more fundamental issues, Fr Brennan's questions simply invite participants to submit a shopping list of demands.


          • sally.rose

            June 25, 2009 at 5:46 am

            Answers to Stiofan’s questions

            Hi stiofan

            No, I'm not a member of the Secretariat. 

            My official role in this forum is that I am employed as the Blogger-in-Chief at Open Forum (and yes, I have personally read every comment on this forum). Open Forum is the independent, not-for-profit oranisation operating this website, which has been contracted by the Secretariat on behalf of the Committee to host and facilitate an online discussion forum to complement broader efforts in collecting a wide-ranging selection of public views about their 3 key consultation questions.

            Fr Frank wrote his own blogs. All the issues he raises and all the questions he asks are those which the Committee has been asking in in-person consultations since December 2008, the idea is that the online forum is one more channel for people to get involved.

            In response to your question, yes I did understand your comment; as a philosophy grad myself I am in fact quite interested in the question of how we define human rights and their relationship to the law. As I said previously, If you want to raise more issues with the terms of reference the consultation has taken go ahead. 

            What I don't understand is why you think allowing others to have a discussion about human rights in practice is a problem? That is after all what the government has appointed the Committee to do.

            If you want to know more about the National Human Rights Consultation you can visit their website http://www.humanrights.gov.au

            Best Regards

            Sally Rose


            02 8303 2420




  7. RichardB43

    June 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Right to access and comment on Information held about you

    I would advocate the right of an individual to be able to see, and obtain a copy of, any and all information held about themself by any  governments. authorities, organisations, companies etc.

    If neccessary there may be an exclusion where that information is accessible only to the person who recorded it in the first place, and will only used by them directly.

    Additionally, there should be a right to add a correcting comment to any information held about you that you believe is wrong, misleading, incomplete or in some way erroneous or flawed.


    I advocate this from my recent experiences with CentreLink, where information I give to the agency is often selectively mislaid and not held (and thus overall the information is incomplete and misleading.) Additionally they make notes from conversations, which each officer is allowed to see and use to make decisions about me, but which I am not allowed to see to ensure it is an accurate and complete record of the information I have given

    Same situation applies for organisations like Credit Rating Agencies, Employers etc.

    A person requesting to see or get a copy should not be charged for the provision of access or a copy, subject only to some test of reasonableness of frequency of request and real incurred cost.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      Great Point!

      I think that could be explicitly included in the right to protection from defamation, slander, vilification etc as well as considered part of the right to due process. And I do mean it should be specified and not just implied.

       Otherwise a false accusation could be made about someone within such records and negatively impact their life and their treatment in access to essential services without any recourse or knowledge of the slander!

  8. RichardB43

    June 4, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Right to actions which do no harm to others.

    Law and regulations should not be allowed to impose restrictions on people who want to take responsibility to undertake certain actions that might endanger themselves, but which do not harm others, nor have any real potential to harm other non-consenting people.

    – To smoke, in a situation which has no potential for passive smoking harm to those who do not consent.

    – To take drugs (in a situation not likely to provide temptation or invitation to minors)

    – To sell drugs to consenting adults. (Where the "content" of the drug is clearly and adequately identified, and also the best advice regarding the potential harm is also clear)

    – To manufacture drugs. Under a strict quality control and labelling regime.

    – To climb Sydney Tower or similarwithout any safety gear, where to fall is only a danger to the climber and other knowing participants (including police who put themselves in danger by waiting to arrest the person).

    – To skydive, walk the high wire, base jump, bungy jump etc.

    – To attempt dangerous adventures. eg; to walk across the desert without water, to sail single handed around the world, to climb Mt Everest. Providing that the relevant rescue authorities have been contacted with instructions as to whether rescue is to be attempted or not, and ageement to be liable for rescue costs)

    – To undertake even dangerous work tasks in a manner the individual determines to be "safe enough", where adequate informed consideration has been given to risks and safety. The right is for the individual to be able to make their own considered determination, without any form of duress or influence from an employer or regulatory authority. a 20 year veteran of roof repairs is better placed than some authority to make his own decisions of when he should wear safety harnesses etc, if he makes a considerd decision that the risks are minimal, or indded the standard safety procedures may make the situation actually less safe.

    – To ask for assisted suicide (in a well regulated manner to reduce chances of undue influence)

    – To make a considered choice in safety aspects such as wearing a seat-belt, wearing a bike helmet. The norm should be that everyone is required to wear a seatbelt, a bike helmet, to be less of a potential burden on society through unnecessary injury.
    However, people should be able to make reasonable decisions, such as not wearing a bike helmet when they are cycling away from any traffic, in a non-dangerous manner and situation. eg: cycling slowly on a road at a time when no motorised traffic is allowed, or clearly there is no motorised traffic at the time. To not wear a seat belt in a motorised vehicle not travelling above 20kph.

    – To drive above the standard speed limit outside of populated areas, up to a speed that can be properly considered safe for the conditions, provided that they are not endangering others, having regard to the conditions at the time.

    – Unprotected sex between informed and consenting adults. (Informed includes knowing the potential for catching diseases from the other person, requring the provision of a current health certificate by prostitutes).

    – To be able to buy and sell pornography. The situation in which the pornogrphy is made is to be properly regulated to ensure consent, no duress etc)

    Children should be appropriately restricted from making their own decisions in these matters. The age at which children can be capable of making such decisions to be appropriate to the level of risk and potential for harm to self or others.

    This right should also cover not being prosecuted for driving a car where another adult in the car chooses to not wear a seatbelt. They should take responsibility for their own safety and compliance with the legal and safety requitrements.

    It should also provide the right of a person to have mitigating circumstances considered where certain potentially dangerous (but not demonstrably dangerous) actions are taken. eg: a volunteer fire-fighter speeding to attend an emergency fire situation where they have a clear view of the road and no other traffic is present.

    – To be able to trade in "genuine home cooking" where the food is clearly identified as being manufactured without full food safety conditions.

    The responsiblity side for many situations would fall on the provider of a situation, a service, a product which has the potential to harm. To operate within a properly regulated situation, and clearly identify and inform with their product or service the associated risks. But the consumer can then make a considered informed decision to accept the risks to eat the "home made" cake, to have sex with a prosititute, to bungy-jump, to go on the roller-coaster, to sail round the world in a 2m dinghy, to climb Everest naked without oxygen  etc.

  9. dctipping

    June 5, 2009 at 10:41 am

    We Need a Right to Water!


    I believe that rights and obligations for water need to be securely protected in the interest of all Australians. Powers over fresh water and public health, to conserve the health of our citizens, should now be checked. There appears to be a great need to more appropriately delegate responsibilities, in line with the real concerns and needs of all of our citizens.

    The following is an excerpt from a public submission recently sent to the Australian Senate on the ‘Inquiry into the Implications for the Long Term Sustainable Management of the Murray Darling Basin System', available at http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/rrat_ctte/murray_darling/submissions/sub16.pdf:  

    "Fresh water is a human right

    Water is the essence of life. Along with the air that we breathe, fresh water is the most universally useful substance on the planet, and, as such, it should be considered a public good. As a public good, it is a vital necessity for human health and survival, and the sustainability of societies. Good quality water, like freedom, is an intermediary end – a condition, and not an ultimate goal.

    This human right to water is based on fundamental existence need. Due to its indispensable nature, in guaranteeing longer and healthier lives, there is a legal entitlement to "sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses". The international community has committed to protecting this right through international law.

    Nation-States have obligations and duties under international law to respect, protect and fulfil these human rights, in the interest of both present and future generations. These internationally guaranteed standards are interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. General Comment No. 15 (2002) of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights confirms the human right to water. It clarifies the substantive issues arising from the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and outlines the obligations in relation to this right.

    The right to water contains freedoms, and entitlements, not limited to systems of health protection providing equality of opportunity, or to the prevention of disease. The General Comment states that the elements of the right "must be adequate for human dignity, life and health". Adequacy should not be interpreted narrowly, "by mere reference to volumetric quantities and technologies". It is also made clear that the human right to water must "be provided to all citizens without any discrimination".

    A State party is required to "refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with (individuals') enjoyment of the right". If deliberate retrogressive measures are taken, then – there is an obligation on the State party – to prove that they have been introduced only "after the most careful consideration of all alternatives". In this regard, each nation is obliged to "use the maximum of its available resources" in securing and protecting the right to water. The Committee add that infringement of one right often impairs other human rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, the right to education, the right to freedom of speech, the right to work, and so on…

    Nations are also obliged "to ensure sufficient recognition of the right to water within (their) national political and legal systems, preferably by way of legislative implementation". The General Comment forewarns that violations of the right to water include the adoption of legislation and policies that are "manifestly incompatible with pre-existing domestic or international legal obligations in relation to the right to water". For example, given full support and commitment to global free trade, governments must "ensure that agreements concerning trade liberalisation do not curtail or inhibit their capacity" to protect the people's right to be guaranteed access to pure and fresh water.

    When water facilities and services are operated and/or controlled by the private sector, there are also obligations to fulfil. For example, the affordability of water, and water services, must not be compromised. To prevent abuses, "an effective regulatory system must be established", and this must include "genuine public participation".

    State parties and other entities further need to ensure that proposed strategies and plans "do not interfere with access to adequate water", and that "appropriate institutional arrangements" are established. Of increasing importance is that "individuals and groups need to be given full and equal access to information concerning water, water services and the environment, including that held by third parties"; especially in light of new uncertainties, fuelled by today's global economic competition. For example, by now restricting access to such information, the recent and hasty advance of counter-terrorism legislation and policies in many inclusive democracies may add to this challenge. Such decisions may also remove such public insurance matters of water quality and human health to the domain of administrative law – which may risk "severing links of duty and of kindness", or preventing such issues from being duly considered by a properly qualified judiciary. Has international civil society given any thought to this matter, and the associated potential to cause economic loss and undermine contract law, the principle of equity, and representative and inclusive democracy under the rule of law?

    International nongovernmental organisations such as Transparency International confirm the increasing challenge of good governance in the water sector globally. It is certain then that the burning problem of our age and time – poverty reduction and the right to water – is understood properly by only by a microscopic minority. Nevertheless, the foundations for world peace inevitably being laid down now, it is essential that governments advancing innovative methods of constitutional control not forget this basic existence need of the people.

    As an upstanding member of the international community, the Commonwealth Government should give due consideration to Australia's obligations erga omnes. International legal personalities must take into account the interests of the whole international community – and of international public order. Currently around half of humanity lacks access to adequate water and sanitation. Over 5,000 children die in the developing world each day from the risk of infection of water and sanitation-related disease; in these nations the hospitals are more or less than 50 % full with such cases at any given time. Could a process or a precedent that promoted the forced or informed reuse of sewage and industrial wastewater – as a substitute for good quality water, especially in the International Year of Sanitation – be in the interest of global health, sustainable development, or world peace and security? To achieve international objectives one could imagine a greater need – to build a sense of common cause to decrease the spread of preventable disease for the 'global public good', and through such great equaliser of opportunity as sanitation, open doors for business." 

    I am for a bill of rights, as I believe it is the only way to effect positive and equitable change related to water in our society.

    Some immediate questions posed for reflection/comment are:

    1)     Do the people of Australia actually have a right to pure and clean water? If so, why has it not been declared a public good?

    2)     Why has Australia not ensured sufficient recognition of the right to water within our national political and legal systems, particularly given the urgent priority afforded to water since 1992?

    3)     If desalination of seawater has been viable since the 1970s, and in the end may be proven as a less expensive option of water supply than ‘recycled sewage' – then why has Australia, a drought stricken country, only recently commissioned its first desalination plant?

    4)     Why have some State and Territory governments tried to jump straight into unsafe ‘recycling' of sewage, to mix into the drinking water supply reservoirs of Australians, without adequately informing public opinion of the great risk and threat of such an unproven approach? Could this be defined in any sense as a deliberate retrogressive measure? Is this an impairment of other human rights? Is this culturally acceptable to the Australians of this day? Is this respectful or an affront to human dignity?

    5)     Why have some governments repeatedly stated in the media that no water supply experts have come out against recycled water, when I work on global water supply and sanitation issues for Africa and Asia and have written to all necessary persons, as an advocate for good public health and sustainable development?

    6)     Is the right to water fulfilled or protected, in line with Australia's international obligations?

    7)     What do our governments define as genuine public participation, when it comes to basic human rights?

    8)     As water in our major cities is now under the control of corporations, then why have more effective regulatory systems not been established?

    9)     Why have the Australian people been forced to accept ‘water restrictions', while cities have been rapidly expanding in all directions?

    10) If our urban populations use only around 10 % of the available water, and if classical economics has not been used to curb the quantity of water demanded by other users, then why should the additional water required for the growth of our cities and towns be simply taken from the people already living there?

    11) What is the cost to the Australian people of the Commonwealth Governments continuing to allow the States to over-allocate our scarce water, more as a political resource, at the same time permitting rivers to be so degraded as to be a cause for human health concern?

    12) Why hasn't adequate information on water been made available, in a suitable format, to enhance public understanding of the issues?

    13) Which information on water has been restricted due to recently enacted counter-terrorism laws, at the same time as water allocations have been separated from land and trading has been permitted?

    14) What rights do those in rural towns have if a major water user leaves town with their water allocation, or simply sells it to another user in another town, and local property markets subsequently collapse? Who pays for this damage?

    15) How much water has been incorporated into the various free trade agreements negotiated by the Commonwealth Government, while the Australia people suffer water restrictions? Where is this information made available?

    16) Would a bill of rights be sufficient to deal with the issues, or should a public royal commission inquiry be utilised to help us to correct course on this critical issue for all Australians?

  10. dctipping

    June 10, 2009 at 3:10 am

    On the first question (1)

    On the first question (1) Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?

    Q. Could it be understood that the seminal works of Edward Coke, William Blackstone and John Locke are at the heart and mind of the United Nations System? They seem to have transferred Magna Carta from a "medieval document" into "modern constitutional law". Q. In promoting civilisation, freedom under the rule of law, and human survival on the one hand, and natural rights to life, liberty, health and property on the other, could it be that these rights that could not be surrendered in the social contract with civil governments, limiting government powers to the common good, already underpin the human rights that should be protected (through public responsibility) in Australia?

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 10, 2009 at 11:29 am

      Locke to H.G.Wells and beyond

      While the enlightenment philosophers are the base from which modern human rights principles evolved that they did evolve is crucial. H.G. Wells and others contributions to the subject around the time of WW2 was a very large part of the resulting U.N. Decleration.

      It's also important to point out that the social and economic rights in the UN decleration were there largely because of the work of Australian delegates so is it really fair for Australia to leave those out after pushing them onto the global stage?

      And these ideas have continued to be examined explored and have continued to evolve since the UN Decleration.

      The UN Decleration is for example in rather heterosexist language but the Yogyakarta Principles http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/ show that their basic ideas support the rights of sex and gender and sexuality diverse individuals. Which Australia already supported internationally http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_declaration_on_sexual_orientation_and_gender_identity

      So our understanding of human rights continues to grow and has also become more consistent over time with it's core principles of equality, fair treatment and simple human dignity for all.

    • Tom Campbell

      June 15, 2009 at 1:47 am

      What is the best option?

      The quick answer is that the Magna Carta is still part of the law in Australia, and that Australia has obligations under international law to implement the treaties, such as the various UN Conventions, to which it is a signatory. But I would like to take up your points, not as issues of technical constitutional law but as questions of political philosophy. It is a matter of political philosophy, not legal fact, whether we ought to have a written constitution, whether that ought to have a bill of rights in it, what those rights ought to be and how they ought to be protected.

      You refer to John Locke and ‘the social contract’ but that is a fictitious idea designed to help us think about what powers governments, including courts, ought to have and what limitations ought to be placed on them. Locke’s basic position is that the legitimacy of a state depends rest on the consent of the governed, so that we all have the right to join together to say what governments ought to do and what we will not tolerated them doing. The National Human Rights Consultation gives us the chance to say what we believe the duties of government to be and perhaps to support the idea of adopting a national bill or charter of rights to provide a democratically endorsed statement of these duties in the form of the correlative rights of all Australians. How such a bill or charter would fit in to our existing political system is also a matter for us to express our opinion on. We could have it as an important check list for voters to use in deciding how to vote. We could use it in conjunction with some political reforms to make sure that our rights are given explicit consideration in the process of government, through parliamentary committees, ministerial duties and independent bodies such as the Australian Human Rights Commission. We could use as the basis for giving new powers to courts in their interpretation and reviewing of legislation and administration. These can all be considered as putting morally based political pressure on governments to perform better in protecting and furthering the basic interests of all Australians.

      From the political philosophy point of view there are two major issues to confront. One is that government can’t wait on gaining the consent of everyone so we have to settle for majority decision-making. This raises the problem of protecting minority interests. The other is the problem is that reasonable people (including those sitting on courts) disagree about what general statements of human rights require in practice. Bills or charters of rights are affirmations of basic moral values and when it comes to putting them in to practice all sorts of disagreements arise about precisely what those values are and what follows from them when it comes to enacting specific binding laws. This blog provides plenty of examples of such disagreements. If we focus on protecting minorities, we tend to think of giving courts power to restrict executive governments. If we focus on the disagreement problem, we tend to think of keeping the power to decide what human rights are to mean in practice in the democratic branch of government. No constitutional expert can tell you which is the best choice. I prefer the democratic option, because that makes us all responsible for ensuring that minorities get a fair go and I think that works best in the long run.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 15, 2009 at 4:39 am

        The Majority has been Failing the Minorities!

        You suggest that a system that leaves the fate of minorities in the hands of the majorities is somehow better in the long run.. but is it really?

        In the past where Australia voted to allow women the vote and count Indiginous Australians as humans and citizens it might look like the majority fulfills that obligation… but the reality over the decades since then of continued discrimination legal doubel-standards and injustice shows that to be false.

        Let alone the many other discriminated against vilified and unjustly treated people in Australia.

        What is required for this 'majority option' to work?

        It requires decades, even several generations of people to suffer while slowly trying to educate the populace out of a bias or bigotry when those who have the most vested interest in maintaining such have more power, influence, finances, media platforms and begin with Ignorance already operating in their favour.

        It means a vast struggle of self-sacrifice on the parts of those trying to inform the populace on the issues because the bias against them is prevalant in every corner of power, in every newspaper office.

        All the while the majority unaffected by the suffering of minorities can happily ignore their plight if they don't want to. They may shirk their responsibility with no consequence upon them, only on the ones they are responsible to!

        You may as well leave a toddler with a babysitter who thinks its fine to let the kid play on the highway as they wont be punished when the kid dies. And to ensure that analogy is not thought an exaggeration I suggest people look into the suicide rates for gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people who face discrimination! Literally people are dying because of these injustices! Not just a few but a substantial proportion of the population effected  by this! Way out of proportion with the rest of the population!


        "Suicide risks:
        A national study by Jonathan Nicholas and John Howard presented at the Suicide Prevention Australia national conference revealed the following figures around suicide attempts:

        Gay male: 20.8% had attempted suicide
        Heterosexual male: 5.4%
        Bi/undecided male: 29.4%
        Lesbian female: 28%
        Heterosexual female: 8.3%
        Bi/undecided female: 34.9% "


        "Transsexuals may be at higher risk than homosexuals and much higher risk than the general population to suicidal behavior. (13) Fifty-three percent of transsexuals surveyed had made suicide attempts. (14)" "13. Harry, J., "Adolescent Suicide and Sexual Identity Issues," submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health for the Secretary's Conference on Adolescent Suicide, Washington, DC, May 8-9, 1986.
        14. Huxdly, J., and Brandon, S., "Partnership in Transsexualism, Part 1: Paired and Non-paired Groups," Archives of Sexual Behavior, 10, pp. 133-141, 1981."

        All that suffering and struggle merely to get equality they deserved from the start? Because the majority Failed it's responsibility? Because the Majority and it's representatives Continues to Fail it's responsibility.

        Well I hereby charge the Majority with Negligent Homicide of thousands of Transgender, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people by allowing this injustuce to continue to exist. It may not be allowed in law but I assert it in truth and I argue that every politician who has acted against these people or who has failed to act to stop these deaths has blood on their hands. And every media outlet that has not brought this matter to public attention or who have made fun of and vilified these people has blood on it's hands. And every voter who has not ensured the current system fixed this problem as you say they are responsible for doing has blood on their hands.

        And I charge your preferred model with this failure. I say it too has blood on it's hands. Because thus far it has failed. And by giving the power of responsibility but no consequence or accountability or rule of consistency to that power it is not genuine responisbility, it will merely enable the continued apathetic standing by while more people suffer and while more people die.

        • Skepticus

          June 16, 2009 at 2:09 am

          Aborigines Must Not Be Specifically Mentioned in any Charter

          Why has so much of the debate over a Charter of Human Rights focused on Aborigines – or that ridiculous and quite meaningless term 'indigenous peoples'? Any Charter that separates out aborigines – and won't the HC have fun defining just what means – is by definition racist.

          Aborigines are "human" you know. 


          • Bayne MacGregor

            June 16, 2009 at 3:01 am

            Why would that be Racist?

            It was their country first, why shouldn't that be recognised?

            Why are their issues brought up here so much? Because their basic human rights have been abused to a catastrophic degree!

            Yes they are human… but one of the reasons we had no bill of rights in the first place was so racist policy could continue to regard them as native animals not humans!

            Is anyone suggesting they be given advantages over others? No. No-one has suggested that here.

            Here's some words that should be in the charter repeatedly:

            Including but not limited to

            Under right of protection from discrimination for example we should have those words followed by Race, Ethnicity, Religion, Sex, Sexuality, Gender Identity and Expression.

            Note that Race their covers Whites as well as Aboriginals.

            So what's your beef if your covered?

      • Brett Paatsch

        June 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

        The average citizen simply doesn’t have time to pay attention

        "I prefer the democratic option, because that makes us all responsible for ensuring that minorities get a fair go and I think that works best in the long run."

        So much law is made, often in the form of disallowable instruments, or in haste that the professional pollies can't be across the detail. Letting the courts be another safeguard of an essential core of rights (however minimal) when the rest of the community is too distracted to show due care gets the minority whose rights are infringed a way to bring the matter to the attention of a community and the pollies that don't know, hopefully more often than, don't care.

  11. t.o.morley

    June 15, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Anti-discrimination Law

    I have one thing to say that is most likely to fall on deaf (catholic) ears.

    Why is discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation not identified and protected?

    It pains me to say, but often I am embarrassed to call myself Australian as we are so far behind so many other countries when it comes to being progressive, especially in relation to human rights protection. I think it's time we take lead from another Commonwealth with a more socialist view; Canada. As more and more emerging human rights are identified, it seems essential for Australia to have a dedicated bill of rights to maintain consistency and accessibility of information for the masses.

     In summation, our human rights stance in Australia may be adequate (barely) in terms of legal grounding, but the colouring of the Australian culture does not reflect this at all. Community awareness, education and pressure must be involved to instigate positive change in the Australian population at large.

    If we can't invest enough energy into protecting the rights of the ~2% of the Australian population who are of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander background as well as the ~10% who identify as homosexual, then how on earth can we protect the rights of the remaining 88%?

  12. Douglascomms

    June 16, 2009 at 6:20 am

    Economic rights

    I'd like to challenge the existence of economic rights. I do so for a number of reasons principally because the notion of economic rights is contained in a number of other human rights, and the notion of economic rights is therefore superfluous, and secondly because the notion that economic rights are somehow separate from other human rights are often used as the basis for refusing many access to other basic human rights. 

    Economic rights are usually expressed along the lines of the right to be paid for work, thereby accumulate goods and wealth. 

    However, once contained in the notion of economic rights the underlying rights are no longer protected.

    As citizens of a nation few could argue that we have the right to access clean air, drinking water, sanitation, education, housing, health care etc. 

    If we are precluded from accessing such services based on our religion, political beliefs or gender the international community readily recognises that we had a claim to seek assylum.  But if we are precluded from accessing such services based on our economic status we are branded economic refugees and not recognised as being worthy of seeking aslyum in a neighbouring nation. 

    I can assure you that it is no less painful to watch your children starve because you don't have the money to feed them, than it is to watch them starve because you are from a minority ethnic group and are not allowed to enter the marketplace. 

    I believe the notion of economic rights is in fact used to prevent many millions from accessing basic human rights, within Australia and around the world. 

    I believe the notion of basic human needs should be emphasised over and above any notion of ecnonmic rights, and would be keen to get a response to this idea. 

    JV Douglas

  13. John Smuts

    June 16, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Rights & Responsibilities

    I'm glad to see that your last question mentions responsibilities because I think this is the key.

    I'm concerned by the (over?) emphasis in Western democracies on human rights. Rights based legislation is essentially selfish as it encourages individuals to look out for themselves and their community – as they compete with others. 

     Likewise rights based policies inevitably lead to the clash between 'rights'. How do we decide which rights take precedent when they appear to clash?

     I would much rather see government policies based on treating people fairly and encouraging Australian communities to look out for the needs of other communities.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 16, 2009 at 9:51 am

      Few Rights actually clash

      Usually they have neat borders. You say 'appear' to clash and the word appear is crucial.

      Example: My right to punch people exists. Other peoples right to not be touched if they don't choose to also exists. My right and their right is equal as they and I are equal. Therfore to use my right to punch justly must take into account their rights so I must find someone willing to be punched who understands what it will entail (Informed Consent). Well that's easy, off to boxing or martial arts I go. Where I can punch and be punched within mutually accepted conditions where any participant can change their mind and stop being punched of their own free will.

      The rights did not clash. They met the neutral point of equality where consent from both participants is required.


  14. rickymjam

    June 17, 2009 at 4:03 am

    The Right to Freedom of and from Religion

    Australia is a secular society, given the number of different religions freely practiced by the citizens of Australia.

     Therefore there must be a right to be free to practice any religious belief and a right to be free from religious evangelising, and a right to be free not to believe any faith at all.

     This right must also be extended to the government not funding any community religious group, or it must fund all religious and non-religious community groups.

     This will naturally include the complete absence of religious or faith based commenting or policies or initiatives by government. The faith of any member of parliament must NOT be taken into account when formulating statements on morality or government works of any kind.

  15. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 17, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Closing dates

    Submissions to the National Human Rights Consultation Committee closed on Monday 15 June 2009.

    If you missed the deadline to make a personal submission, and would like to participate in the consultation process, there are still two avenues available to you:

    1. You can participate in an online consultation at http://www.openforum.com.au/NHROC until 5pm 26 June.

    2. Public Hearings will be held in the Great Hall, Parliament House in Canberra on 1 to 3 July 2009. Please continue to visit http://www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au/ for more information on how you can register to attend the Public Hearings.

    Please note, contributions to Open Forum will not constitute official submissions, however the Committee will be considering your views in preparing their final report to government.

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Brett Paatsch

      June 17, 2009 at 10:45 am

      Okay Father Frank Brennan and fellow Australians – consider

      We need human rights to protect Australians from Torture, Jackboots and the American Way.

      Torture? Surely I jest? No see yesterdays Washington Post article

      CIA Mistaken on 'High-Value' Detainee, Document Shows


      Where the CIA agents tells the mistakenly identified detainee not to ask about the Constitution because he isn’t an American or on American soil.

      Jackboots? Just about every lawyer not on the Bush payroll as well as then Secretary Kofi Annan said the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was illegal. Simon Crean was releasing the Australian Labor Parties advice to the press to that effect when he was interrupted by the start of the war. As part of the war on terror Bush was Shocking and Aweing the Iraqis. The highest right humans can have is the right not to be murdered (illegally killed) and illegal invasions are mass murder and crimes against humanity.

      The American Way? Its not just the Republicans or Bush that expect an American exception to the global rule of law; the Democrats too, consistently act in the short term national or party interest against the wider human interest. Pelosi took impeachment off the table. Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder are both on record as saying water boarding is torture yet no action is being taken against those Americans in high office that set up those programs despite a duty to act arising from the UN Convention Against Torture. The American Way is that every non-Americans right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is at American discretion and American expedience and their Presidents are above the law.

      There is a real impediment to the rule of law and human rights around the world and it’s the systemic bias of the American Way.

      See Dan Froomkin’s opinion piece Obama: The foot-dragging continues



      Why should this American stuff matter to Australians? Because in the future just as the in the recent past Australian politicians will still face great pressures to stay on-side with the international ally. There is no reason to think the people of America (five percent of humanity) are suddenly going to start electing people who will uphold their oaths and the law against their political interests and against the human rights of foreigners that don’t vote. And there is every reason to think future Presidents of the United States will use the usurped powers allowed to become traditional to the office.

      In future US Presidents and their agents will retain enormous incentives to pressure Australian politicians (along with any others of other nations that have weak rights protections) to forgo the rights of Australian citizens in exchange for political favors.

      And US Presidents appoint the ambassadors to the UN. The UN can’t make a decision in the Security Council to do anything if the US vetos the resolution and, as we have seen with the Iraq invasion and torture, the US breaks the UN rules when in the opinion of the US President it suits it and the US people as a body politic let them break them.


    June 18, 2009 at 12:29 am

    The Right to Know

    The Right To Know is one critical item missing from all the submissions placed on the Human Rights Consultation web site on on the web site itself. On the 17th April I forwarded a 9 page submission to the Human Rights Consultation Secretarait pointing out this omission. Despite my many attempts I have not been able to get my submission published on the web site. It is clear that despite the word 'consultation' being part of the name of this group set up by the Government to foster debate on a Charter or Bill of Human Rights the Secretrait has no idea what is involved in community consultation. I challenge the Human Rights Consultation Secretriat to provide a definition of 'consultation' and to explain why this essential Human Right ie The Right to Know is not included in any of its documentation and I assume it's submission to the Government.

    Richard James Casey

    02 6649 2404

    (19/6/9 Richard has given Open Forum written permission to publish his phone number because he would like other forum readers to be able to contact him personally if they wish)

    (18/6/9 Site Administration had previously passed Richard's phone number on to the Secretariat as requested but not published on this forum to protect Richard's privacy).

  17. lucyv

    June 18, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Rights of Indigenous Australians

    I work as a social worker in an alcohol and drug program on a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory.  I am a non-Indigenous Australian concerned about how my Indigenous brothers and sisters are being treated in this country.  It seems if you are black, you are treated differently, whether it is intentional or not.

    The only way I know how to express my concern is to share some stories.

    Before the NT Emergency Response first came into affect, people in the community were being told that they would be called into the Centrelink office to have a one-on-one conversation with a staff member so that the Income Management system could be explained to them in their own language using an interpreter.  Later, I learned that this did not happen in all cases.  Centrelink staff actually told me it was impossible to have an interpreter with them at all times, and sometimes an interpreter couldn't be located.  I had people were coming into our office not knowing what Income Management was, how it worked and why it was happening to them.   After I had explained it to them, some of the comments I received from community members was "Why is this happening to us black fellas"?  "Why don't the rest of Australia have to do this?"  "This is racist". 

    In the first few weeks of Income Management being introduced we had children coming into our office who were hungry because their parents couldn't access any money.  There were issues with Centalink putting money onto people's cards, sometimes taking up to 3 days for it to be transferred.  People were starving.  People were going out bush to try to scrounge for food.  There were more arguments as people went to family to humbug for food.  Some old people were really confused about the system and were going hungry, not aware that Centrelink were holding money for them in a "bucket", waiting for directions from customers telling them where to send their money.  A woman who had family problems and subsequently made homeless had no money to move to Darwin. When I took her to Centrelink we discovered she had $500 she did not know about.  This client should have known about her money and who was controlling it.  On another occasion, I was helping someone move to Darwin because she was homeless. She had no cash to pay for a taxi on her arrival in Darwin or to attend an urgent appointment with a housing authority, but Centrelink was holding a substantial amount of money in her "bucket".  But she could not take this money in cash to use for taxis, so Centrelink booked a taxi for her using income managed money to attend her appointment. After she arrived in Darwin, the taxi failed to pick up the client and she missed her appointment because there was a communication problem between Centrelink and the Taxi Company about the pick-up address. This incident added significant stress to this client as she was convinced she would miss out on the property NT Housing had offered.

    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that "Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves".  I was disgusted to see the process of "consultation" which occurred by government representatives over the Women's Safe House and Men's Cooling Off Place, an initiative of the NT Intervention.  They brought with them already established plans for grey shipping container buildings and barbed wire fences, laying them out in front of the few community members in attendance asking "where do you want it?" and pressuring them to make a decision.  There was no respect shown for ways that women were already responding to violence in the community, nor what they would want a safe house to look like.  They had no choice about this.  This is how the rights of Indigenous people making decisions for their own people is played out in communities.

    I have started to see the effects of the new draconian mandatory sentencing laws come into affect recently in the NT.  This week, I witnessed a young woman sentenced to prison for her second assault, a very minor incident which occurred when she became angry.  It is something that could have happened to any one of us, but because this is the second time she has lost her temper, the magistrate had no option but to send her straight to jail.  I was appalled.  If this had happened to a white person in a big city, there would be outrage but because it happened on a remote community in a bush court, it passes hardly noticed.  Jail is not the place for people who lose their temper and make a silly mistake.  Mandatory sentencing laws will only serve to put more people in our prisons and they will all be black.  Mandatory sentencing laws are biased against Indigenous people. 

    One community where I work is currenty considering signing a 99 year lease with the goverment, because leaders in the community feel this is the only way they are going to be able to get services to their people, in particular improved education, health and housing.  Why is it Aboriginal Australian's have to sign over their land to get those things the rest of us automatically receive.  This is not right.  This seems to also contravene the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

    Indigenous children are being removed from families because there has not been the support afforded other people in society to maintain the family unit… there are people being ripped off by scrupulous art dealers because they have been unaware of their rights…..I could go on and on.

    I am in favour of the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act in full, the abolishment of the NT Intervention and a way forward which includes proper consultation with Indigenous people about laws affecting their own lives.

  18. gaschmon

    June 19, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Support for equal rights and laws

    I support equal laws and discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.


  19. Martin Browne

    June 20, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Equality means equality for all sexual orientations

    'Equality before the law' should mean equality for all adult sexual orientations – not just that of the majority. Therefore I support equal laws and discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians. Although progress has been made in recent years, there are still existing discriminatory pieces of legislation that should be brought into line so that one law is for all Australians.

    Thank you, Martin Browne

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 20, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      Transgender and Intersex Kids

      Hi Martin.

      It's worth pointing out that their are many issues facing Transgender and Intersex kids. Access to hormone blockers where appropriate, prevetion of unneccessary and often harmful genital surgeries on Intersex Infants as just some examples.

      Also homophobic and transphobic abuse has occurred to children because they are perceived to be gay etc whether or not they actually are.

      The attempted suicide rates of GLB and especially TG Youth are extremely high. Very many Transgender people and a significant number of homosexual and bisexual people are aware of their orientation from an early age and homophobia and transphobia harmfully effects them long before they are sexually mature enough to become sexually active.

      So these issues effect not just adults but teenagers and younger too.

  20. brettm

    June 21, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Human Rights Protection

    Question 1. Which Rights should be protected and promoted? 

    Frontyard submits that all individuals have the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing. In the experience of Frontyard this is not a right enjoyed by young people who are homeless. People who are homeless are also likely to experience a number of other human rights breaches, including:        

    • The right to an adequate standard of housing
    • The right to be safe and free from violence
    • The right to an adequate income and social security
    • The right to education
    • The right to freedom of movement
    • The right to the highest standard of physical and mental health


  21. Diana ONeil

    June 21, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Health Rights Needed in Australia

    At present Human Rights in relation to health are poorly understood by the community at large. The consequences of the limited community awareness of a health rights has the perverse effect of not encouraging citizens take responsibility for their own health nor facilitating the respect of individuals' health rights by health professionals.

    There is growing acceptance within the health sector that these are outdated attitudes. It is becoming accepted policy and practice that the right to participate in health and health decision-making exists for all health consumers. As a consequence it is likely that consumer and community engagement strategies will be further acknowledged in the current national health reform process.

    Unfortunately the recently released Australian Commission for Safety and Quality's Charter of Healthcare Rights does not have any legal status and is also clearly intended to only cover matters related to healthcare service provision and treatment. There is therefore no comparison between this Charter and the health rights stipulated in international rights documents. This Charter may prove a useful tool if it is taken up by the health sector and is promoted to consumers, however, it will never be able to address questions of maximizing independence or social determinant concerns or act as a watchdog function in relation to institutional care.

    It needs to be recognised that health services are often delivered in institutional settings within the context of a power imbalance between the health professional and the health consumer. Ill health, or the existence of an on-going condition can leave any individual vulnerable. It is unrealistic to assume that simply the adoption of a Human Rights Charter will ensure that the most vulnerable citizens in various types of institutions and treatment facilities will either be aware of or able to affect the achievement of their human rights.

    The need for systemic protection, access to advocacy services and rights monitoring systems is warranted as a result. For example South Australia does not have a Community Visitation Scheme. This type of service is commonplace elsewhere in Australia and serves to protect the most vulnerable individuals in public and private institutions. Existence of national rights legislation would assist in the promotion of the understanding and importance of such schemes.

    The high level of private health care provision in Australia also means that states have a special obligation to provide to those who do not have sufficient means. This issue is clearly addressed in the International Covenant and is highly pertinent in the Australian context.

    Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should be included in the proposed Human Rights Charter for Australia, along with acceptance of the obligations associated with being a signatory to the Covenant which are articulated in the General Comments.

    It is excellent statement regarding the right to enjoy the highest possible standard of physical and mental health. This is an important set of words as it allows for an understanding of physical and mental health that goes beyond access to treatment and extends to consideration of the social determinants of health.

    It also includes the notion of maximizing potential and independence and is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The right to maximum independence is of special concern to HCA as we are acutely aware of the particular difficulties faced by mental health consumers.

    This broad understanding of the Covenant is clearly identified in the General Comments attached to the Covenant. The General Comments speak of health rights as incorporating ideas such as availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality as being required for all citizens regardless of income.

    It is this understanding of health rights that HCA is committed to protecting and promoting.

  22. sandie perry

    June 22, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Which Human Rights and Responsibilities Should be Protected and

    Q1: Which Human Rights and Responsibilities should be Protected and Promoted?


    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    • The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    • Convention on the Rights of the Child

  23. Tracy Sinclair

    June 23, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Human Right and Responsibilities
    I suppport equal laws and discrimination protections for lesbian , gay, bisexual, transgendere and intersex Australians.

  24. VWilliams

    June 24, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Rights & Responsibilities

    I fully support the establishment of human rights in general, however with one amendment.  With Each Human Right accepted, it should come with a corresponding Responsibility.  In my average Australian's viewpoint, we (generalisation) are often good an knowing and promoting rights, such as free speech, but we don't take any responsibility for respecting the free speech of others, or the consequences of words spoken. 

     I therefore could only support a rights bill that acknowldges equally a bill of responsibilities associated with those rights.

     I feel that for the minority groups and the disadvantaged, the bill of responsibilities with enable these groups to actually benefit from a bill of rights.


    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm

      Defining these responsibilities

      This idea has come up a few times and I find the idea quite interesting.

      But I can only think of two responsibilities.

      1. To respect the rights and equality (real-world equality not just on-paper equality so short-term affirmative action may be required to create real equality) of others. (so that a bill of rights covers not just the state and the individual/group but the individual and other individuals).

      2. To defend the rights of others.

      Do you agree with both of these? Can you think of others?

      If only these two cover the whole thing a seperate bill of responsibilities isn't needed, just one line or two in the preamble to a charter explaining this responsibility or responsibilities.

  25. thaifrog

    June 24, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Which human rights be protected?
    Discrimination, harassment, inciting hatred or threatening violence because of someone’s of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, intersex, lawful sexual activity, relationship status and identity of someone’s partner.

    • THolm

      June 25, 2009 at 7:26 am

      Rights to choose in healthcare

      I want to suggest that we need to maintain our rights in the field of health choices, as an educated country, because widely-available information can sometimes be misleading, and because mainstream points of view can sometimes override others, before many people who hold a minority perspective are fully aware of changes to the policy environment.  Sometimes business interests and social institutions can deprive us of rights that we may only be marginally aware of.  This can happen by accident, because socially we may represent any deviations from 'the norm' as irresponsible (and most of us mainly want to do the right thing).  But, as citizens of a democracy, we need to remember that our freedom to choose and to make informed decisions is a basic right. 

      I am particularly interested in rights around health-care choices.  Some choices of healthcare and related services can be life-changing, for better or worse, and choices of forms of treatment can impact on a person's ability to live life to their full capacity. 

      For instance, people do not receive any government subsidies or support for choices of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment in Australia.  This means that most low-income-status Australians can only afford to see medical practitioners, which does not represent a truly democratic choice.  Few exceptions exist, where a GP refers a patient for some types of treatment, which can then be reimbursed by Medicare.  Most forms of complementary medicine, however – including all the usual forms of naturopathic medicine, and healthcare that is culturally appropriate or traditional, e.g. for some Aboriginal or ethnic/migrant people – are exempt from any Medicare support.  This policy environment is slowly changing, but it should not change at the expense of freedom to choose genuinely 'alternative' treatment.  A suggestion is that complementary practitioners' expertise is not sufficiently recognised, in comparison with medical knowledge, despite many years of intensive study for some.  

      For instance, also, a lot of Australian women are led to believe that their only or best childbirth option is caesarean section.  In many cases, such 'advice' is unwarranted, and certainly not representative of the facts.  Our caesarean rate is extremely high and constantly increasing, whereas most well-informed and well-supported women choosing natural birth have positive outcomes and experiences.  It should be a duty of care for healthcare providers to give all of the information necessary to enable women to make a truly informed choice. 

      For instance, also, lately we have seen not only a lot of promotion of the HPV vaccine, but also a lot of 'evidence' of deletirious effects of this vaccine, including chronically disabling illnesses and deaths.  It should remain a person's right to choose whether to be vaccinated against viral illnesses, and the information provided should include both sides of the story. 


  26. john glazebrook

    June 25, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Parents’ & women’s rights under threat

    Attempts by the Childrens' Commissioner in Tasmania, Mr Paul Mason to criminalise circumcision need to be taken seriously

    According to Mr Mason's Discussion Paper, parents who requested that their son be circumcised (myself included) and the doctor who performed the circumcision may be guilty of assault

    Does this mean that millions of parents around Australia who had their boys circumcised and their doctors who performed this simple procedure may soon find themselves in Court ? What absolute garbage !

    Extreme views like those expresssed in Mr Mason's paper obviously DO NOT REFLECT EXISTING COMMUNITY VALUES   

    Mr Mason's paper completely ignores the many and now very well documented preventative health benefits of circumcision to both the child who will later become   a man and the women he will consort with

    Parents need to be able to make an INFORMED decision on this subject, YES or NO

    The scientific findings and evidence based medicine are not going to go away !

    Make no mistake, the discussion paper is a poorly disguised attempt to abolish THE RIGHT OF PARENTS TO DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR THEIR CHILD


    Human right issues that need to be addressed :

    i) The Parents' rights to decide what is best for their child (preventative health included), should be enshrined in the Constitution and not become the subject of  legal argument or debate The term "assault" needs to redefined when it comes to  preventative health measures such as vaccinations and circumcision, where the obvious intention is to DO GOOD

    ii) Governments and public health officials have a clear responsibility to inform Women of the relative risks of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease from an uncircumcised male versus a circumcised one Why is this not occurring ? A public education program, should be done, at the very least, on an annual basis, because of the rapid advances now being made in this area of medicine

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 25, 2009 at 1:05 pm

      Let the child decide for themselves when they become adults!

      Some children grow up to resent that they were circumcised for a variety of reasons.

      As adults they could still choose to undergo circumcision for all the reasons it can be argued as worthwhile. With less risk because the doctor is operating on a larger piece of flesh and with informed consent of the patient rather than irrespective of their own desires!

      Parents have a right to maximise the informed choices of their children not to impose on their children the genitals the parents would prefer they had.

      Let the child decide when they are grown to adulthood in a fully informed way. As an adult their sexual choices are none of their parents bussiness. As children they should not be sexually active.

      Women (and men) can choose to sleep with circumcised or uncircumcised men again however they please. They have no right to expect all men are circumcised and i expect condom use is likely as effective and I expect far more effective at STD prevention.

      But the women can choose to only have sex with circumcised men if they want to. An uncircumcised adult male can choose to get the circumcision done. The circumcised child when an adult cannot choose to be uncircumcised!

      There is no reason surgery needs to be forced on children when it could be delayed and allowed to be a choice of an adult and when a circumcised adult might regret an unneccessary permanant decision was made on them that cannot be undone!

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 25, 2009 at 1:13 pm


        "Parents have a right to maximise the informed choices of their children not to impose on their children the genitals the parents would prefer they had."

        I meant to say "Parents have a responsibility to maximise the informed choices of their children not to impose on their children the genitals the parents would prefer they had."

        And further I want to emphasise womens rights are to making informed decisions, not to surgical acts committed on unconsenting babies.

        Parents do not own their children, children are dependants they are responsible to. They must be responsible to the fact that the child will be an independant person with the freedom and right to choose for themselves.

  27. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 25, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Rights and responsibilities

    To date, we have seen a broad and divergent range of views expressed on this page about which rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted in Australia. Posts have referred to the right to adequate housing, the right to culture, the right to equality, the rights of Indigenous Australians, the rights of children, political rights, the right to privacy, and the right to water. We have also seen an interesting side discussion about whether the best way to protect minority groups is through majoritarian democratic processes, or individual rights.
    In the short time we have left, I want to raise an issue which has been touched upon by a number of more recent posts on this page. Do we have responsibilities alongside the rights and freedoms that have been discussed? If so, what are these responsibilities? And should they be enforceable? 

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Brett Paatsch

      June 26, 2009 at 2:44 am

      I’d like to submit that as citizens we have responsibilities

      because in secular societies the resources to underwrite positive rights have to be found in the real world. The books must balance. God doesn't seem to underwrite the right to housing or medicine or many other goods that we would like to be available for all. We can't budget for divine intervention – its not responsible and leaves us as a community with a real world shortfall somewhere.

      Not being a   theist I find it frustrating that well meaning people want to create rights for things they regard as good causes without acknowledging that the resources for realising those rights have to be found somewhere in the real world by the community. 

      When rights for animals or embryos (as human life) are claimed, by those with a supernatural worldview often the claimed rights can't possibly be underwritten in practice by those of us in the secular world even all acting together, or sometimes they could only be resourced at the cost of underresourcing other things that would be more important. No human power can give all human embryos a right to life – the loss of embryos is a part of nature. Any social policy that equates embryos with persons is inevitably going to underresource the needs of persons when its attempted to be put into practice. 

      I don't for a moment think that this means that human societies should be cavalier in how we treat embryos or animals but we should be responsible about what sort of rights we claim given that as a society those rights have to be underwritten by resources or we just make a mockery of our own collective efforts and doom ourselves to failing because we can't put the resources behind the claims.  To claim equal rights for embryos and persons can result in an inevitably shortage of medical attention and resources for persons. 

      I think we should be sparing about which rights we claim as citizens in secular society because we in secular society can only underwrite what we together can accept responsibility for underwriting.

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 26, 2009 at 5:21 am

      3 Responsibilities Identified

      I have thought hard on this and Identified 3 responsibilities.

      1. the responsibility to respect all the human rights of others including choices for themselves that we might prefer they did not make and importantly respecting their right to control over their own selves and associated property so that any interaction with their persons is via uncoerced informed consent, with the exceptions for dependants being purely only where their exists a neccessary immediate need and for police in making lawful arrests.

      2. The responsibility to defend the rights and real-world equality of others. Including recognising and undoing current inequality requiring the need to respect short-term affirmative action were needed as well as acting against discrimination and vilification.

      3. Contribution to society, in that those so able pay taxes which pay for the resources and infrastructure all enjoy, the upholding of a number of rights and especially the safety-net of disability and unemployment support everyone has a right to if they need of it.

      I have not been able to identify further responsibilities.

  28. centreformulticulturalyouth

    June 26, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Link to Submission by Centre for Multicultural Youth

    The Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) is a statewide community-based organisation that advocates for the needs and rights of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

    CMY's submission has been informed by a survey and a series of focus groups held with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Focus groups were conducted with over 80 young people from both metropolitan and regional Victoria. CMY also held a statewide forum for youth and community workers from a range of organisations that work with this cohort of young people. Over 60 people participated in the forum to provide their perspective. In addition, this submission draws on the organisation's 20 years of experience working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their communities.

    Here is a link to our submission:


    • Brett Paatsch

      June 26, 2009 at 4:52 am

      Which rights should be protected?

      I liked the submission from Professor Helen Irving who is sceptical of a bill of rights. Especially this excerpt:

      "8          Some rights are suited to a “Bill”

      Not all rights are political or contestable, however. Legal process rights – the rights that surround the arrest, charge, trial and detention of persons suspected of, or convicted of, having committed an offense – belong, properly to the judicial arm of government. They concern the judicial process. They concern justice. They are necessary components of the rule of law, essential protections against arbitrary rule. They should extend to all persons without distinction, and are thus appropriately quarantined from legislative or executive impairment.


      8.2       Judicial or legal process rights include:


      • The right to be informed of the reason for one’s arrest or detention.
      • The right to be informed of one’s legal rights, including the right to silence.
      • If arrested, the right to be charged expeditiously or released.
      • The right not to be detained without charge for more than a limited time, subject to judicial oversight.
      • If arrested and/or charged, the right to legal counsel before questioning.
      • The right to silence following arrest and during trial.
      • The right to confront one’s accuser(s).
      • The right to judicial discretion in sentencing.
      • The right to trial by jury for indictable offences.
      • A prohibition on the classification of an offence as summary, where the offence carries a penalty of more than a brief term of imprisonment
      • A prohibition on retrospective criminal laws.


      8.3              Questions concerning the legitimacy of legislative limitations on these rights are appropriately answered in the courts. If the claim made by proponents of a Bill of Rights were confined to such rights, then agreement might be secured with those who are otherwise sceptical. "



      This Australian, for one, would be delighted to conceed that confinement for an actual agreement that would be real progress on the status quo.


      If something real and concrete is achieved then we can take heart that we can have the discussion on rights again. 



  29. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 26, 2009 at 6:55 am

    A vote of thanks

    As this forum draws to a close I'd like to extend my thanks to those who have participated.  Thanks to Sally Rose, Olga Bodrova and the staff of Open Forum for running this for the National Human Rights Consultation. Thanks also to Tom Campbell, George Williams, Nicholas Barry and Phil Lynch for their expert input. 

    Mostly though, thanks to all of you who have posted here. Your contributions are important and will go a long way towards contributing to what has been a phenomenal national debate over human rights. Never before has the Australian public been asked explicitly to tell the Government what they think about human rights. It's a landmark occasion and a great example of a healthy democracy that can ask itself, 'how are we going?' and 'how can we do better?' 

    Whether it has been broad calls for better human rights awareness, specific pleas for assistance coming from Indigenous and other marginalised communities, or the cautioning voices of those who are concerned about the future direction of human rights protection in Australia – your views have been noted.

    For now though, this marks the close of the online forum component of the National Human Rights Consultation. After the public hearings held at Parliament House next week, we'll be battening down the hatches for the coming months to reflect upon and consider everything we've heard and present our report to Government. Keep an eye out on our website http://www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au/ for updates on how we're going.

    Thanks again.

    Signing off.Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee