Tim Robertson, Seeing Refugees – Remembering Tiananmen Twenty-Five Years on
Alexandra Hurley, Human Rights in Argentina and Australia – A Clear Human Rights Framework
Right Now Vault
Right Now’s June 2014 content is dedicated to the theme of human rights and history. The issue comes on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Australia’s reaction to which offers a counter-point to the present day disregard, if not demonisation, of asylum seekers. A case in point: Sri Lanka is a current asylum seeker source country given its recent history of civil war. With Australia keen to return these asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka, our leaders were noticeably silent on the Sri Lankan government’s (lack of) investigations into potential war crimes committed during the conflict, instead talking up the stability in the country. As a result, despite the pull of its pristine beaches, Sri Lanka remains a dubious destination for “ethical tourism”. But a broader issue is at stake. As the world moves further away from the atrocities of World War II, and countries such as Argentina away from their more localised atrocities, are the human rights frameworks that arose in their aftermath now seen as less vital? And will Australia ever embrace a clear human rights framework without its own “dirty war” equivalent?
Other historical issues remain critical in Australia. Women’s rights to equal treatment are progressing in an erratic fashion, with complacency rife and the apparent radicalism of the “feminist” a curious development. So too is the progress of rights of Indigenous people to fair treatment fitful, particularly in the area of law enforcement policies (whether formal or cultural). Despite hope following the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody some 25 years ago, little has improved in this area. The intergenerational effects of a sad history of misguided policies towards Indigenous people are a reality about which most Australians are apparently uninformed.
Then there’s the future of Australia and the world at large, and questions beyond the scope of this issue (but perhaps suited another): What will the long-term effects of a Chinese superpower be on a world order respectful of individual rights? What hope is there for the (often ethnic and religious) conflicts that create asylum seeker to become a thing of the past, particularly in the Middle East and Africa where extremism is on the rise and discord seems intractable? What of environmental degradation creating “environmental refugees”? And what of Australia’s role and responsibility in addressing these issues that will make up the history of the near future?