THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Eva Csik and Bec Devitt
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Bills strengthening Australia’s Human Rights Obligations passed by Federal Parliament

Federal Parliament has passed a legislation which requires the Federal Parliament to consider international human rights obligations when passing new laws. The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 requires Ministers when introducing legislation or creating a disallowable legislative instrument to table a Statement of Compatibility with Australia’s human rights obligations. The passage of the laws has been welcomed by the Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Law Centre. The Commissioner has said that the, “passage of this legislation will help to make sure that a dialogue about human rights accompanies every piece of legislation introduced into the Federal Parliament.”

Mr Ben Schokman, the HRLC’s Director of International Human Rights Advocacy stated that “these important new laws will benefit all Australians, but particularly groups such as the homeless, elderly persons, people with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, all of whom were identified by the National Consultation Committee. The legislation also establishes a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the first time a Commonwealth parliamentary committee has been dedicated solely to the issue of human rights. Attorney General, Robert McClelland said that the establishment of the committee will promote dialogue with the Australian community who will be able to make submissions on how their rights will be impacted by proposed legislation.
The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 can be found here
An excellent analysis of the legislation by Sarah Joseph of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law can be accessed here

Report released by PWC on the experiences of people with a disability in Australia

Price Waterhouse Coopers has released a report which has found that a staggering 45% of people with a disability in Australia are living either near or below the poverty line. The report, titled Disability Expectations – Investing in a Better Life also found that Australia ranks 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employment participation rates for people with a disability.  The findings reinforce the need for Governments to commit to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
PricewaterhouseCoopers partner John Walsh, who is also a quadriplegic, believed that the current disability network was broken and “for the last two decades, Australia had failed to support people to achieve their dreams.”

The PwC report identified four key principles that should underpin the 10-year plan to change disability in Australia.They include recognising people with a disability have equal rights, that society has a facilitating role to play in assisting people with a disability to exercise their rights, that people with a disability should have choice in how they access support and that inclusion should be actively pursued through the removal of obstacles to employment.

These findings come as Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said more needed to be done to improve the opportunities for people with a disability in our society  ahead of the International Day of People with Disability this Saturday, December 3, . In related news, the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has announced that it will undertake a major research project into the experiences of students with disability in primary and secondary education across Victoria.
The report Disability Expectations-Investing in a Better Life can be access here.
Access to social services in South Australia affected by NT Intervention

Social services in South Australian towns say they are struggling to manage the population pressures caused by the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention. It has been reported that many people have left the territory because of Federal restrictions on welfare and alcohol consumption. Border towns such as Coober Pedy have had to cope with a large influx of people entering the town specifically to drink, a trend that has resulted in homelessness, caused abuse and put a huge strain on social services and resources.
For more human rights news, tune into Australia’s only dedicated human rights radio show, Right Now Radio on 3CR at 6pm on Thursdays. Podcasts of each week’s show are available here

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