Human Rights Report, September 2017

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ Human Rights Adviser

In June 2016 the Queensland Government established a committee to enquire into a possible Human Rights Act for Queensland (popularly referred to as a Bill of Rights).  Victoria, ACT, New Zealand and the UK have their own versions.  Over 500 submissions were initially received but since then progress appears to have halted. While arguments for a ‘Bill of Right’ to enhance existing Federal and State law and obligations under universal H.R. conventions particularly in respect of administration, protection and underpinning of service delivery to citizens is sound, it would be unfortunate if it added  bureaucracy or expensive platforms for legal debate. It is argued that it would be preferable to have an over-arching Commonwealth Bill of Rights.  With the expansion of anti-terrorism measures it may be timely and necessary to revisit the concept of a Bill of Rights.

Like many women’s organisations, NCWQ has had long standing concerns about violence against women, child safety, homelessness and poverty – particularly affecting older women.

Amongst various activities during the year, the Council made a submission to the Queensland Government concerning elder abuse in the form of financial advantage that may be gained by executors who may abuse Enduring Powers of Attorney.  While the Government assured that sufficient ’safe guards’ are in place for instances where major assets are sold e.g. the home, NCWQ will retain a watching brief.  This is critical with a growing aging population depending on a major asset such as their home to finance high needs aged care.

After several fatal attacks followed the breaching of Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) or bail conditions, the Queensland Government took the initiative towards combating domestic violence through early intervention-counselling of first time offenders. The success of the trial remains to be evaluated and expanded subject to available resources. Thousands of DVO breaches occurred in Qld; as many times as they are applied for by police or private applicants i.e.19,208 in 2015.  D.V Connect spokesperson Di Mangan concedes in an interview that the figures raise the question of what can be done to protect victims of family violence. “Many women are protected by those orders,” she said. “But some men won’t take notice of those orders because their sense of entitlement won’t abide by any law.”

Currently refugee numbers are increasing globally at mind-boggling proportions.  Refugee and H.R. advocates are appealing to the Australian government to increase the annual intake of refuges and asylum seekers.  According to UNHCR in 2015 over 65 million people were forcibly displaced. In 2014-15 Australia admitted 6002 people.  Australia has agreed to take 13,750 refugees for 2016-2017.  Comparison of intakes to other countries may be viewed on: www.aph.gov.au/refugee

United Nation appeals to the world’s riches countries to contribute 0.7% of their Gross National Product (GNP) to overseas development goals (Foreign Aid).  The 2016-2017 Australian Aid Budget will be approximately 0.22%. Put simply the figure represents 22 cents in $100.  Opinions vary widely from those who say that balancing our budget has priority – that charity begins at home. Critics however point out that although Australia has become more affluent, contributions have steadily fallen over the years. In the early 60s during the Menzies era aid was over 0.5%, with the highest contribution in 1970 of 0.62%.

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