THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Eva Csik
Right Now Radio Logo

16 March 2012

Baillieu Government retains Human Rights Charter

After being deeply split on the future of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, the Baillieu Government has finally decided to retain and possibly strengthen the Charter. The decision was announced on Wednesday in a statement tabled in response to the report by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee.

In a media release Ted Baillieu declared that, “the Government is strongly committed to the principles of human rights and considers that legislative protection for those rights provides a tangible benefit to the Victorian community.

The Government noted that it intends to introduce legislation which will allow either House of Parliament to require a Minister or MP proposing major amendments to a Bill to table a statement of compatibility with the Charter.

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has released a collection of case studies that demonstrates the important role the Charter plays in the lives of all Victorians.

HRLC’s Ben Shockman has said“The evidence provided by these case studies clearly shows that Victoria’s Charter has ensured the fundamental rights of Victorians of all walks of life are protected.

The Charter is primarily a preventative tool. By requiring parliament to consider the human impact of its decisions, the Charter helps to weed out problems in legislation and policies.

For Right Now’s take on the Government’s response to the Charter, see our Editorial.

Australian Human Rights Commission makes discrimination finding against Railcorp

The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Catherine Branson QC has found that the Rail Corporation of NSW discriminated against a job applicant on the basis of the applicant’s criminal record.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has reported that the applicant was not offered the job despite being the selection panel’s preferred applicant due to drink driving offences in 2001 and 2008.

Railcorp said that holding a criminal record deems the applicant unable to perform the inherent requirements of the job. Yet Ms Branson found that during the applicants previous eight years of employment with Railcorp there was never any suggestion of behaviour that would be inconsistent with the requirements of the position.

Railcorp did not accept the Commission’s statement and declined to pay the $7500 in compensation suggested by the Commission.

Senate Committee approves extension of NT Intervention

The Senate Committee responsible for reviewing the Federal Government’s plans to extend aspects of the NT Intervention has approved the proposals despite raising concerns of the adequacy of consultations with Indigenous Communities. Importantly, the Committee recommended that infringements should be issued for minor alcohol offences rather than imposing jail terms.

The decision comes after the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples called for government’s proposals to be subject to an assessment under United Nations human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice commissioner, Mick Gooda said he supported the intent of the changes, but states that government workers need to increase their cultural understanding so that views of the Aboriginal people are better integrated; “People want to be safe and secure. But they’ve got to own those solutions as well as owning the problems.

In related news, a large number of intervention prohibition signs erected on Indigenous lands and roadsides across the Territory in 2007 will be removed after being widely criticised especially for being humiliating to many Aboriginal people.

The signs that remain are to have new, more respectful wording. Some of the changes include references to ‘alcohol’ will now be ‘liquor’ and ‘pornography’ to be replaced with ‘prohibited materials’.

Report finds that longer prison sentences do not reduce crime

A NSW study has found that longer prison sentences do not reduce crime. In a report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, it was found while an increase in the risk of arrest or imprisonment had a slight impact on reducing crime, increasing prison sentences had no effect at all.

Bureau director Don Weatherburn points that while offenders may weigh up the risks of being caught, they do not consider the length of likely imprisonment; “the question most offenders are asking is, am I going to get caught? They’re not sitting down and thinking, well if I am caught will I go to jail and if I do how long for?

Dr Weatherburn states that the study also found that increasing household income by just 10 per cent reduced property crime by an estimated 19 per cent and in turn had the possibility of reducing violent crime by 15 per cent.

Disabled people are denied a voice in court

Seven children, alleged victims of sexual abuse, aged between six and 13, all of them intellectually disabled were denied a chance to testify in court because South Australia’s Evidence Act does not allow for an interpreter to assist a person with a disability in a court of law. As a result all charges against the offender were dropped.

The Act is currently under review yet many are saying it is taking far too long. Upper House Dignity for Disability MP Kelly Vincent says “It’s not only a blatant human rights abuse, but also a blatant denial of one of the fundamental factors of our justice system, which is presumption of innocence and giving everyone the chance to have their say.

Better access to social media for people with disabilities

Australia’s most popular social media tools were tested for there accessibility for users with disabilities. Media Access Australia undertook the research which was funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network to determine how, many of the accessibility issues can be overcome.

Social media users with disabilities contributed their own tips on how to overcome many of the accessibility concerns.

The report, Sociability: social media for people with disabilities can be accessed to view the finding of the research.

 

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