Offshore processing, gay marriage and youth justice: the human rights wrap up

By Eva Csik | 19 Aug 12

Offshore processing bill passes Senate

The Senate has passed legislation which allows the offshore processing of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat. The Government has said it is looking at getting the processing centres up and running on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island within a month.

Gavin Marshall, a factional colleague has said “I cannot honestly say legislation we consider today sits comfortably in the narrative of the Labor Party, a party based on social justice, compassion and a fair go.

Human Rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC questioned why the laws allowing the return to the offshore processing of asylum seekers was rushed through parliament so soon after the expert panel delivered its recommendations.

It suggests the Government is unnaturally keen to make sure that refugees don’t try to seek safety in Australia

It’s all very nice of us to say that we don’t want them to lose their lives at sea … but it carries with it the implication that we don’t care if they lose their lives back in the country that they are fleeing.

Mr Burnside QC has pointed out that Nauru “has a population of 8,000 people, it doesn’t have enough food and water for its own population” and questions whether anyone can “seriously say that Nauru is capable of supporting another 10, 20, 30,000 people?

The most profoundly depressing aspect of all this is that the Government is so enthusiastic about the idea that we really must prevent people from coming here and asking for our help.”

States unite in support of gay marriage

Following Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings’ recent announcement of her intention to support legislation allowing same sex couples to wed, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has also announced his support to legalise same-sex marriage in SA.

People should be entitled to express their own identity in any way they wish and the law shouldn’t become a barrier to prevent them from doing that.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has urged Opposition leader Tony Abott to allow Liberal MPs a conscience vote. “Legislating for marriage equality brings families together,” Mr Moore said.

In Brisbane, federal Labor MP Graham Perrett has said that “equal love belongs to all Queenslanders and all Australians”.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the territory’s Civil Unions Bill is set to pass the Legislative Assembly when debated in the coming week.

Plans to reform youth justice system in the ACT

The ACT Government has announced its plans to reform the youth justice system following the release of the report The Blueprint for Youth Justice.

The ACT Government aims to bring about more focus on early intervention and diversionary programs.

The Blueprint for Youth Justice outlines an action plan consisting of seven strategies to be implemented between now and 2015,

  • Focusing on early intervention and prevention of contact with the youth justice system
  • Diverting children and young people from the formal justice system
  • Engaging and encouraging the participation of children, young people and their families
  • Providing intensive individualised support to children and young people
  • Connecting and reintegrating children and young people into a home and the community through effective throughcare.
  • Creating an integrated whole-of-government, whole-of-community services system to support children and young people
  • Building a strong and smart workforce

Community Services Minister Joy Burch has said “this is all about stopping offending behaviour, it’s about behaviours of young people and adolescents at risk of offending. It’s about supporting families, supporting individuals.

Trial needle exchange program in Canberra’s jail

The ACT government is to go ahead with a proposed trial needle exchange program in Canberra’s jail , which would allow doctors to provide prisoners with clean needles in exchange for dirty injecting equipment. The Public Health Association’s Michael Moore recommended the program and has said that the decision to trial the program is a bold move forward.

ACT Human Rights Commissioner Helen Watchirs has said that not allowing drug users access to an exchange program could be seen as inhumane under the Human Rights Act.

Amanda Bresnan of the Greens has said that “evidence shows that programs like this actually improve the safety for prisoners and inmates.”

Political communication or public menace

A man accused of using the postal service to cause offence has requested the charges be dropped on the grounds that they infringe his freedom of political communication.

Man Haron Monis, sent letters to family members of soldiers who died in Afghanistan. Mr Monis views himself as a peace activist and initially stated that the letters were intended to offer his condolences while also asking the families to lobby the government to stop the killing of innocent civilians.

Neil James, the executive director of the Australian Defence Association (an independent watchdog for defence) said the organisation had no objection to peaceful contention, however believes that Mr Monis’ letters were not written in such a manner.