Election 2013 and Human Rights (Part Two)

By Right Now
Parliament House

In the lead up to election day this Saturday, Right Now provides an overview of the official policies of Australia’s three major political parties on five noteworthy human rights issues: disability, indigenous affairs, marriage equality, asylum seekers and climate change. Yesterday we examined the major parties’ policies on disability and indigenous affairs. Today we continue by looking at how Labor, the Coalition and the Greens say they will respond to marriage equality, asylum seekers and climate change. 

 

same sex marriageMARRIAGE EQUALITY

While there is currently no specific international convention on LGBTI rights these rights are human rights. The rights of equality and non-discrimination, contained in Articles 2, 16 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, should ensure that Australian laws, policies and programs do not discriminate on the basis of sexuality. Although every state and territory has passed legislation recognising de facto relationships between same-sex couples, marriage equality still isn’t a reality.

 

Labor

Federal Labor has promised to fast-track marriage equality legislation if it is re-elected.

Key Points:

  • Within the first 100 days will introduce a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
  • Has promised Labor MP’s will be allowed a conscience vote when the Bill comes before Parliament.

 

The Coalition

The Federal Coalition is unsupportive of marriage equality.

Key Points:

  • Bill on marriage equality is not “a priority”.
  • Will not commit to conscience vote if the matter was to come before Parliament.

 

The Greens

For the Greens marriage equality is a matter of basic human fairness.

Key Points:

  • Condemn Coalition’s lack of commitment.
  • Support Labor pledge to introduce Bill to Parliament.
  • Note, however, that during the last vote on marriage equality only 52.9 per cent of Labor MP’s voted aye.
  • Supports marriage equality unequivocally – “Every Green. Every vote. Every time.”

 

Asylum seekers fenced inASYLUM SEEKERS

Probably the hottest human rights issue at this election, the right to seek asylum is enshrined in the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is also grounded in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. Australia has a responsibility to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers, regardless of how they arrive here.

Not only do many of the policy options at this election infringe the right to asylum they may also be in violation of more general rights under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

 

Labor

The Regional Settlement Arrangement was announced in July 2013, and followed by an intensive media campaign to publicise the message that “If you come here by boat without a visa, you won’t be settled in Australia”. The Labor party also increased the offshore processing quota to 20,000, and has engaged in arrangements with PNG and Nauru to orchestrate those found to be asylum seekers to settle in those countries.

Key Points:

  • Processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat will happen offshore.
  • No asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will ever be settled in Australia. If found to be refugees they will be settled in a country with which Australia has an arrangement. At the moment that includes PNG and Nauru.
  • Increased humanitarian intake to 20 000 per year.

 

The Coalition

The Coalition policy, Operation Sovereign Borders, is a military-led response that would see a Coalition government instructing the navy to “turn back the boats”. Their six-point policy includes the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) for those found to be refugees, offshore processing in Nauru and on Manus Island, the interception of all vessels travelling from Sri Lanka, and the refusal to process those who arrive in Australia without documentation. They have also released the Regional Deterrence Framework Policy.

Key Points:

  • Offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, increased capacity at Nauru.
  • Appoint a military commander of three-star ranking who reports to the Immigration Minister to oversee Operation Sovereign Borders.
  • Authorise turning the boats back “where it is safe to do so.”
  • Return to TPVs for those found to be refugees.
  • No judicial review for those asylum seekers whose claims for refugee status are rejected.
  • $67 million to support joint operations with Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • $20 million through the International Organisation of Migration to “engage and enlist local villages in Indonesia” to disrupt people smuggling operations.
  • Will stop funding legal advice for asylum seekers.

 

The Greens 

The Greens oppose the PNG solution and call for an increase in the humanitarian intake to 30,000 annually. They also call for an extra $70 million every year to increase UNHRC capacity to process asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Key Points:

  • Shut down offshore processing.
  • No children should be held in immigration detention, on or offshore.
  • An inclusion of environmental refugees in the 1951 Refugee Convention.
  • Increase humanitarian intake to 30,000, with 3,800 directly from our region.
  • Additional $70 million per year for UNHRC processing in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Restore Australia’s migration zone to match our land sea territory.
  • Prioritises family reunions.

 

wind powerCLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change directly threatens human rights in a variety of ways. In 2008, UNHRC Resolution 7/23, Human Rights and Climate Change recognised the implications of climate change for human rights including the right to life, to adequate food and water, and to shelter. In the Australian context, the Australian Human Rights Commission Climate Change Background Paper notes that governments have an obligation to protect these rights, emphasising the potential of climate change to cause mass migration and threaten both cultures and livelihoods.

While climate change played a major part in the 2007 and 2010 elections, in 2012 it has been discussed less by the major parties.

 

Labor

Labor’s last term in government saw the introduction of the Clean Energy Future package (the Carbon Tax). Since his return, Rudd has declared the Carbon Tax “terminated,” planning a shift towards an Emissions Trading Scheme. The carbon emissions reduction target is 5-25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

Key Points:

  • Will implement a floating price on carbon through an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
  • Will bring forward the planned move from a Carbon Tax to an ETS by a year to July 1 2014.
  • Will reduce funding for the Energy Security Fund from $4.3 billion to $2.5 billion.
  • Aims to reduce carbon emissions to 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

 

The Coalition

The Coalition’s climate change policy is to abolish the carbon tax and introduce an emissions reduction program using its Direct Action Plan. While they have the same carbon emissions reduction target as Labor (5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, depending on international agreements), they see a different path to achieving it, and that path doesn’t include any sort of carbon pricing mechanism. Instead, the policy focuses on soil sequestration and renewable energy.

Key Points:

  • Abolish a carbon price.
  • Introduce a $3 billion Emissions Reduction Fund as part of their Direct Action Plan, to incentivise voluntary emissions reduction activity by business and industry.
  • Abolish the independent Climate Change Authority, which provides expert review of Australia’s emissions caps and targets.
  • Green Army to plant 20 million trees by 2020.

 

The Greens 

The Greens have consistently maintained that a 5 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 is too low. They campaign on carbon neutrality by 2050, and made the introduction of a Carbon Tax a condition of their support of a Labor government after the 2010 election. They also have ambitious polices when it comes to government leadership in the area of renewable energy, proposing $30 billion be spent over ten years to drive the commercialisation of emerging technologies. The Greens carbon pricing costing is available from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Key Points:

  • Committed to a 25-40 per cent reduction on 1990 levels by 2020, with an aim towards zero net emissions by 2050.
  • Reverse the government decision to bring forward by one year the floating carbon price, and the related program cuts.
  • Increase the renewable energy target to 90 per cent by 2030.

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