Australia in the World – Editorial

By Right Now | 20 Jun 13

At Right Now, we focus on human rights issues that are relevant to Australians. Normally, that means we look at stories in Australia. But in July, we’re broadening our horizons, and looking at Australia’s place in the world. After all, we don’t live in a vacuum, and some of our most pressing human rights concerns have sources and parallels overseas.


Perhaps the most obvious is that perennial political football, the so-called “boat people”. But apart from hearing about why they must be “stopped”, we don’t know a whole lot about why these individuals come here. Nor do we know much about what the much talked-about regional solution might look like. This month, we’ll be looking at both of those angles. To kick off that coverage, we have a review of the Emerge Festival, which  presents new refugee and emerging artists who have recently settled in Australia. The review includes some remarkable images from the Heartlands Refugee Art Prize, including “What is seen; Cannot be unseen”, the image above.

While the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers continues to recommend a regional solution for asylum seekers, Asher Hirsch questions whether such a task is possible. Asher also speaks to some recent refugees, just in case we need reminding that we’re talking about real human beings. Kate Galloway looks at what Australia’s policy of offshore processing and detention of asylum seekers reveals about the unequal power dynamic between Australia and its tropical neighbours, and what it means for Australia’s international reputation as a human rights leader.


Looking to the Pacific, Angelica Neville examines the most recent Defence White Paper, which identifies migration in relation to climate change a potential security issue. Neville argues that rather than seeing climate change migration as a security threat, we should be pursuing a “consultative and non-alarmist approach” that will put human rights first.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is likely to become one of the world’s most significant free trade deals. But while Australia is one of the major parties, Australians could be excused for drawing a blank on the name. Stephanie Murphy discusses the regional agreement, internet freedom, big pharma and the perils of free-trade.

Dr Jonathan Schultz explains Australia’s engagements with PNG, from aid to policy influence to the “outsourcing” of our responsibilities for asylum seekers to PNG’s Manus Island, in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Human Rights. Papua New Guinea is ranked 134 out of 147 in the UNDP’s Gender Development Index. Given that Australia accepts refugees from PNG on the basis of gender-based violence, Angelica Neville argues that the Australian Government will be sending female asylum seekers into harm’s way. Roxanne Moore and Alexandra Scott give us 5 reasons not to give up – an activist’s guide to debunking Rudd’s PNG policy.

Melissa Reid teases out the complexities of Australian aid work in Viet Nam, with the two countries subscribing to opposing political frameworks that penetrate to the core of their respective national identities.

Lucy Swinnen speaks to Amnesty International’s Ming Yu about the continuing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and whether the country is suitable to hold this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, known as CHOGM for short, which is scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka in November.

Abroad at Home

Meanwhile, Amy Conley talks to Lena Lashim, a young Egyptian now living in Tasmania, about Lena’s use of creative expression to forge connections in new places.

Abraham Mamer and Sara Maher highlight the connections Australians can have to their country of origin, pointing to both the fact and (aid) contribution made by South Sudanese Australians through remittances.

An estimated two to three million girls are subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) each year. Leona Hameed looks at the practice in Australia and what can be done to eradicate it and to assist victims.

Marriage equality is a hot topic around the world, with France recently becoming the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Shae Courtney looks at marriage equality in Australia and how we compare to some of our closest allies.

Justin Randle argues that we are witnessing “a vast, systemic, institutionalized, industrial-scale Leviathan surveillance state that has clearly gone far beyond the original mandate to deal with terrorism—far beyond.”

Right Now’s Rose Hunter speaks to Daisy Gardener, Oxfam’s Labour Rights Coordinator, about global labour rights, the Rana Plaza factory tragedy in Bangladesh, and how Australian consumers can act to protect workers’ rights.

Coming into force this July, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act continues to occupy a great deal of the media’s attention. With an emotive introduction to Parliament by Prime Minister Gillard and rare bi-partisan support, the question circling many Australian households is: what is the NDIS? Isabella Royce answers this question and others in her discussion of disability support schemes in Australia and the UK.

Finally, David Donaldson looks at Australia’s hypocrisy on nuclear disarmament – despite public commitments for global disarmament, it remains Australia’s defence policy to rely on the US’ nuclear deterrent. And Associate Professor Tilman Ruff examines human rights in the nuclear era.