This Week’s Human Rights News

By Eva Csik
Right Now Radio Logo

8 December 2011

Labor Party to support gay marriage

The Australian Labor Party has made an historic vote to change its platform to support gay marriage. Despite these changes, State and Federal MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on gay marriage if a bill comes to Parliament.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not publicly opposed a platform change but she does oppose changes to the Marriage Act 1961, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

According to the platform change endorsed today ‘‘Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life’’.

The amendments to the platform also exclude churches and other religious organisations from having to perform marriage ceremonies for gay people if they do not want to.

From the perspective of the Catholic Church, Cardinal George Pell has suggested that “‘any Australia-wide party’ that supports gay marriage ‘does not want to govern’”.

In related news, a Galaxy poll recently released by the pro-same-sex union group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) has shown that 80 per cent of Australians want the Coalition to have a conscience vote on marriage equality. Malcolm Turnbull has called for coalition MPs to be allowed a conscience vote on the issue.

Court victory for traditional land owners

The Western Australian Supreme Court has ordered that “compulsory acquisition notices issued by the West Australian Government regarding a proposed gas hub in the Kimberley were unlawful”. Notices issued by the Government to extinguish native title were ruled to be unlawful because they did not contain a description of the land.  As a result of this technical victory, proceedings will be initiated to declare the area an Aboriginal site under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.

The Premier Colin Barnett says “it’s a technicality that can be easily overcome and the project is not in doubt”. The Greens have called for the Federal and West Australian governments to abandon the gas hub proposed for the Kimberley region. “A majority of traditional owners have given approval for the multi-billion dollar gas hub to be established but the Greens say they believe Indigenous people were pressured into that agreement”.

UN congratulates the Federal Government’s move to introduce bridging visas

The United Nations has congratulated the Australian Federal Government’s move to use bridging visas to process asylum seekers in the community. The visas allow asylum seekers who have undergone initial checks and security clearances to live with family or friends and to work for pay. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced that his department has approved 27 bridging visas but expects the figure to increase.

But the Opposition has strongly criticised the new measures and says the Government is being reckless by using bridging visas for asylum seekers who arrive by boat. According to Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, the move further winds back the Howard Government’s border protection policies. He concluded that “no government who is serious about border protection would’ve announced these measures …”.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was in support of the changes and stated, “I welcome these steps towards a more humane approach to asylum seekers in Australia which can only help to strengthen the tolerance and understanding necessary in a modern multi-cultural society”. Ms Pillay added that Australia had made real progress in its treatment of asylum seekers this year.

High Court to rule over extradition for alleged war crimes

The High Court is set to decide whether an elderly Perth man should be extradited to face questioning over war crimes allegedly committed in 1944. It is alleged that the man murdered an 18-year-old Jewish man while in the Hungarian army.

This report was compiled using the sources attributed in hyperlinks listed throughout. Don’t forget to tune in to Right Now Radio at 6 pm tonight on 3CR 855 AM to hear more about these human rights news items. You can also stream live at www.3cr.org.au.

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