Human Rights Adviser Report July 2015

By Georgina Pickers – Human Rights Adviser

businesswoman-454874_1280

The Inaugural meeting of COAG Advisory Panel on Domestic Violence met in early June. This panel aims to focus on innovative, practical and deliverable proposals to reduce violence against Women and children. While all the states including Queensland have increased measures to combat this social scourge it is hoped that elevation of this problem to a Federal level will produce a more uniform approach, cultural change and positive outcome.

Gender Equality is imbedded in Human Rights. It is therefore sad to report, that as a modern well educated developed country Australia lags in the area of women’s participation in business, particularly their representation as CEOs and participation on boards, although this percentage has increased from 8.3% in 2009 to 19.9% as of May 2015 (ASX200 listing)

The gender pay gap is currently around 18.8% or $298.10 per week. The International gender pay gap is around 18.7%. The pay gap between men and women in the private sector is approximately 22.4% and 12.3% in the public sector. Australia is currently ranked no.24 on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, which compiles data on education, health, social policies etc. As Elizabeth Broderick, current Sex Discrimination Commissioner who steps down in September, remarked that although it puts Australia in the more advanced group in terms of gender equality, the change here is “glacially slow”

Overall female representation has only increased from 28% to 32% in 10 years, and Australia’s international ranking for participation in Federal Government has declined over the past decade from 21st out of 186 countries in 2004 to 43rd in 2014. The Australian Labor Party has preselected more female candidates (in winnable seats) than that of their conservative counterparts.

Queensland’s Shadow Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, Tracy Davis MP has tabled a draft bill to the Queensland Parliament to provide for the disclosure of convictions for domestic violence or sexual offences. This significant initiative will be based on the ‘Clare’s Law’ model introduced in the United Kingdom in 2014. When passed, the legislation will anyone to make an application about a persons who is in an intimate relationship, where there is a concern that that person may harm their partner. This avenue is also available to a concerned third party, such as a parent, neighbour or friend, not just the potential victim. While application and disclosure conditions need to be incorporated, it is anticipated that when the legislation is passed, it will help combat domestic violence, sexual assault offences, especially with the rise in use of social network websites.

Organisations and individuals are invited to complete a response sheet on the proposal.

Visit: www.clareslawqld.com for more information.

The Womens Action Group in Queensland and other states are seriously alarmed about Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) and ending the practice and potentiality in Australia amongst newly arrived immigrants from African, Middle Eastern and other countries. While state laws regard the practice as illegal it is not covered yet by an overarching Federal law that would give it ‘teeth’ as well as making it illegal to take young girls and children abroad for the procedure. As FGM violates various human rights under international and national law it is vital that women’s groups such as NCW support this move. For more information visit: www.nofgmoz.com

Looking at Human Rights in 2015

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ Human Rights State Adviser

white ribbon

Victorian Rosie Batty was awarded Australian of the Year for her work and advocacy on behalf of families of victims of domestic violence, following the death of her son killed by her estranged husband. The emotional trauma suffered by the immediate families of victims is enormous by largely overlooked by society and the justice system.

Queenslander Hetty Johnston, tireless campaigner against sexual violence towards children was amongst several nominees for 2015 Australian of the Year award. According to Ms Johnston, some 59,000 children are sexually assaulted every year.

An electronic ‘app’ (application) is being developed. It will be especially targeted at young females with the aim to educate young women on their rights, emphasising that physical and emotional abuse and / or controlling behaviour is unacceptable in health relationships.

While the two Australians facing Indonesian justice have attracted wide media attention it is not the first time Australians have been executed for drug trafficking. Whilst drug smuggling is calculated, quite organised and motivated purely for monetary reward, most reasonable thinking people would say it is not in the same league as premeditated murder or mass killing. Over the years most countries have abolished capital punishment, with the United Nations, publically condemning the practice.

Currently it is noteworthy that a number of Asian countries, besides Indonesia, impose a death penalty for drug smuggling. As harsh as the penalty may be, most participants believe they will not be caught. One must therefore ask what kind of the deterrent does a death penalty really offer?

Terrorism reached Australian in the form of the Martin Place Lindt café siege with tragic results. Predictably security organisations including the Australian Federal Police called on the government to increase spending and resources for counter surveillance and other security measures.

Ransom demands and sickening treatment of hostages by Islamic State (ISAS) continue to shock the civilized world. Publicity, recruitment and propaganda by social media and news outlets must be prevented. Whilst many argue ‘freedom of the press’ is paramount, media and social networks have responsibility not to assist ISAS by the continuously showing video footage ‘glorifying’ their brutal activities.

If people convicted of crimes they are not allowed to ‘profit’ from publicity. Surely the same principle must apply to extremist organisations such as ISAS.

Queensland Police are expected to review their use of guns, after the shooting of 7 people since early 2014 (4 fatal). When it is illegal for the public to carry guns then it is not unreasonable for ‘the man in the street’ to ask why, given other tactics at hand, that the police resort to using this option so freely? The deadly finality is tragic especially when those killed apparently suffered mental illnesses.  The UN Human Rights charter incorporates principals for the protection of those with mental illness. These covenants must be given some weight when revising the approach to difficult situations such as these.

Adviser Report Human Rights February 2015

A Reflection on Human Rights

Unknown

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ Human Rights Adviser

It grieves me that as a global citizen and a citizen of one of the safest, tolerant and welcoming countries in the World to tens of thousands of refugees and immigrants over the years, a small minority of obsessed individuals wish to threaten that balance by taking advantage of our freedoms, protection by law and free religious expression to expound radical views under the guise of religion. 
This tiny minority has drawn the attention of security and intelligence agencies who’ve naturally asked for stronger legislation to monitor and combat these threats.  The consequence is the nibbling away of freedoms individuals in this country have taken for granted, naively perhaps.
This has contributed to various human rights conventions that the Australian governments have signed over the years now being overlayed and undermined by contradictory legislation particularly in respect of ‘jumping the queue’ arrivals and ‘security’ requests.  Children who are born here either by design or being sent by adults in the hope that they will be more kindly treated are also now caught up in bureaucratic limbo. 
It saddens me that Australia could develop into a paranoid society – one where neighbours and families are encouraged to report on one another; one that encourages authoritian counter-measures; enacts heavy handed legislation as well as condones zealous police and intelligence forces, albeit essential as some believe. Actions that it may be argued are necessary to keep the country the unique place it is in a growing unstable world. 
Ironically and all the more intolerable to me is that a country that has given sanctuary and protection to so many has also given the opportunity to some who only have murder, cruelty, oppression in their black hearts. 
Queensland women over 21 were granted suffrage in 1905.  The first state in Australia was South Australia in 1894.  It was one year after New Zealand granted the vote to women in 1893 (first country in the World)
Partitions collected 15,442 signatures between 1894 and 1897.  This was impressive given Queensland’s decentralisation and population of approximately 456,000 in 1896. For more interesting facts and figures visit:www.parliament.qld.gov.au/explore your parliament
Another interesting website about participation of women in Australian government is the Parliament library: www.aph.gov.au/parliament.  Currently women comprise 29.0% of all Australian Parliaments.  The percentage of women in the Senate is 38.2% and 26.7% in the House of Representatives. The ACT Legislative Assembly currently has the highest proportion of women (41.2%) and Queensland the lowest, with (21.3%)
 Next year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing that set the agenda on women’s rights in 1995.  This year significant emphasis is on The Girl Child, focusing on the inequality young women suffer in rights, health, education and protection.  More information is available from: www.unwomen.org.au 
Young British actress Emma Watson has been appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.  In September Ms Watson addressed the UN General Assembly about the importance of involving men in the pursuit of gender equality.  In her speech she urged men to pledge support for the HeforShe campaign.  The UN International Day of the Girl Child was held on October 11th.
 

Human Rights Adviser Report 2014

623x308x5039984660_1cffe4e0ff_z.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Nkf3bls1zZ
Used under Creative Commons.

By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ Human Rights Adviser

Human Rights groups and the Australian Human Rights Commission headed by Professor Gillian Triggs, has called for an a second inquiry as to why 1000 children are being held in detention, including 700 at Christmas Island and 100 in the Nauru facility.   While the surrounding fences and facilities may not be ‘child friendly’ the dangerous environments, refugee camps or other places certainly would have been worse.  The last report was in 2004.  Since then measures including community detention and bridging visas have improved the situation the previous Federal government also failed these children.

            Many were sent unaccompanied in the hope that Human Rights conventions would oblige Australia to treat them with more sympathy and speedy entry.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, states the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in “all actions regarding children”. It also states that a child may be detained “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”. This is an international human rights convention to which Australia is a signatory.

According to the UNHCR 2012 Yearbook there were estimated to be approximately 15.4 million Refugees worldwide.  There were some 928,200 asylum seekers.  With on-going and escalating conflicts this figure has no doubt increased.  Australia, with its’ many assets, generous social welfare system (compared to developing countries) will be a magnet to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, escaping from physical harm, bad governance and or simply economic circumstance.  In the future how Australia accommodates and provides new arrivals with employment will require the ‘wisdom of Solomon’. 

The “stop the Boats” strategy of the Abbot government appeared to have had positive results.  The confidentiality of the operation has raised the ire of media and human rights groups but the compelling reality is that the risky undertaking due to the lucrative exploitation by people smugglers is declining.

            Acts of rape and extreme violence against women in India and Pakistan continues to attract world media attention.  The culture of these countries is used as an excuse for on-going behaviour.  Many countries, including Australia may have underlying sexist attitudes towards women, but in a minority and not in the society.  The negative image, damage to tourism, disgust and loss of respect increases when the modern World is watching.

           Attorney General George Brandis has flagged intentions to amalgamate the human rights bureaucracy.  Currently there are eight positions including the President, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice, Disability Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Children, Race, Sex and Freedom Commissioners.   Members of the Human Rights commission are due to retire this year.

            It is distressing to know that underage girls are being forced into arranged marriages in Australia today.  Prue Goward, the NSW Minister for Community services, commented that it might be commonplace in certain communities in Sydney, however evidence is difficult to obtain unless coming to the direct attention of government services or the law.  Practices that allow for the denial of the rights of children, be they religious or cultural, have no place in any state or territory under Australian law.  An education program is necessary for new-immigrants often ignorant of local laws and customs.  Current laws may need to be reviewed to ensure this protection.      

Human Rights Adviser Report Feb2014