Report: A Human Rights Agenda for the next Australian Government in 2022

Ahead of the Federal Election on 21 May, we’re calling on the next Australian Government to help Australia better uphold human rights. Because, really, human rights are about making an impact on people’s lives for the better, and that’s the role of government.

Elections are a chance for people to make a statement: what country do we want Australia to be over the next three years and beyond? Who do we want to represent us? And what values do we want our elected representatives to hold?

Human Rights are about ensuring LGBTQIA+ People aren’t discriminated against and have the support they need to be who they are. It’s about giving people seeking refuge the safety they couldn’t find at home. It’s about building a country where everyone is treated with respect.

That’s why Amnesty International Australia has launched the Human Rights Agenda for the Next Australian Government.

We’re calling on whoever forms the next government to put human rights – both at home and abroad – at the heart of all policy decisions, and to re-establish Australia’s place in the world as a free, fair and caring country and a human rights leader.

So, to sum it up, here’s what we’re calling for:

What we’re calling for

In Australia

Legislate a national Human Rights Act

Human Rights protect us all, ensuring every person in our society is treated fairly and justly, regardless of our cultural background, race, gender, age or belief. Yet Australia is the only liberal democracy without a bill of rights or an equivalent law that protects the rights of all of its people.

We need to ensure the rights of all Australians, including the most vulnerable, are promoted and protected. A national Human Rights Act would ensure this.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to legislate a national Human Rights Act.

Raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14

Indigenous People are over-represented in many of the most unfavourable national statistics, but none more so than the rate of incarceration. That’s in part because right now across the country, kids as young as 10 can be locked up and held behind bars. This is disproportionately impacting Indigenous youth.

When children this young are forced through a criminal legal process, their health, wellbeing and future are put at risk. Punitive approaches simply don’t work.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to recommend that each state and territory commit to raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age, in line with international standards, and meet the recommendations of health and legal experts worldwide.

Refugees and people seeking asylum

Despite international condemnation, Australia continues to arbitrarily detain refugees and people seeking asylum offshore. After more than eight years, over 200 refugees and people seeking asylum still remain trapped offshore in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

14 people have lost their lives as a direct result of this system, with more than $10 billion in taxpayer dollars spent.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to end the system of offshore detention and accept the New Zealand offer of resettlement so refugees who have been trapped can finally find safety.

Reforming the Community Sponsorship Program

Community-led resettlement provides a viable pathway for refugees to rebuild their lives in Australia. It offers a real solution to crises’ like the one unfolding in Afghanistan. But currently, at more than $20,000 per person, the cost of the current program is too expensive and bureaucratic for ordinary Australians who want to welcome refugees into their communities.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to reform the Community Sponsorship Program, including by making it more affordable and additional to the current humanitarian intake.

LGBTQIA+ rights

Research indicates that LGBTQIA+ children and young people are more likely to experience discrimination, bullying and abuse than other children and young people and are significantly more at risk of suicide, self- harm and mental health impacts as a result.

That’s why attempts to wind back the rights and hard-fought protections of LGBTQIA+ people must be rejected. Our laws must protect us all, equally. The rights of one group cannot come at the expense of the rights of others.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to ensure that no legislation privileges religious views to the detriment of LGBTQIA+ people.

Covid-19: Ending global vaccine inequality

Covid-19 presents the greatest human rights challenge of a generation. While the development of effective vaccines has provided hope to many, the vaccine roll-out has been massively skewed towards wealthy countries.

In countries like Australia, the government has been buying up available vaccine doses at rates far greater than what’s required to fully vaccinate the Australian population. Combined, this has meant predictable – and artificial – vaccine scarcity for the rest of the world.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to end global vaccine inequality, redistribute all surplus Covid-19 vaccine stocks to low- and lower-middle income countries and renew the contract with AstraZeneca to produce vaccines domestically.

Human rights and the climate crisis

The climate crisis is a human rights crisis and it’s already wreaking havoc on the lives of millions of people, deepening inequalities and discrimination, threatening the enjoyment of most of our rights and the future of humanity.

At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Australia was the only country among advanced economies that refused to strengthen its 2030 emissions target. The Australian Government was one of the main blockers of global momentum to reduce emissions by resisting calls for a phase-out of coal.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to return to the United Nations climate summit next year with a stronger 2030 target.

On the international stage

China

The Chinese government has continued to increase repression to stay in power in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and across the country. As a result, it views the global defence of human rights as an existential threat. It has systematically attempted to reframe human rights at international institutions, including the Human Rights Council, opposing the universality of human rights as “Western values.”

Amnesty International’s research has concluded that the Chinese government has committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. These crimes have separated people in Australia from their families in Xinjiang, many of whom have had no contact with their loved ones for years.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to use all bilateral, multilateral, and regional platforms to urge the Chinese authorities to allow independent human rights investigators unrestricted access to Xinjiang and dismantle the system of discrimination and persecution of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Learn more here.

Afghanistan

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, Amnesty International has reported numerous human rights abuses, including the violent repression of peaceful protests, attacks against human rights defenders and journalists, denying women and girls their right to education, and the unlawful killing of ethnic minorities.

Despite this, the Australian Government has only committed to 3,000 humanitarian places for those fleeing the Taliban, within Australia’s existing intake. In contrast, countries like Canada and the United Kingdom have committed to more than 20,000 additional places.

Amnesty International calls on the next Australian Government to allocate at least 20,000 humanitarian places, in addition to the existing humanitarian program, to those fleeing the Taliban.

Federal Election responses to what we’re calling for

The Federal Election provides an opportunity for us to engage with MPs, Senators and candidates at a time when they may be at their most receptive.

When we launched the Human Rights Agenda late last year, we sent a copy to all major parties and independents in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, requesting responses to our human rights pledges.

As a non-partisan organisation, Amnesty is not advocating for any particular Party or candidate. We are objectively presenting human rights issues to everyone, and asking that they make these a priority if elected.

List of major parties and where they stand:

  • Liberal Party of Australia – awaiting response
  • Australian Labor Party – read response here
  • National Party of Australia – awaiting response
  • Australian Greens – read response here
  • Centre Alliance – awaiting response
  • Jacqui Lambie Network- awaiting response
  • One Nation – awaiting response

List of current independent members of Parliament and where they stand:

Note: Responses are still being received. This page will be updated regularly.

Want to learn more?

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 10 million people. For 60 years, we have challenged injustice and campaigned for change. We search out the facts, expose what’s happening and rally people together to pressure governments and those in power to respect human rights. Learn more about our Australian campaigns.

On 21 May 2022, Australians will elect their next government. Ahead of that, Amnesty is calling on the next Australian Government to put human rights – both here at home and abroad – at the heart of all policy decisions and to re-establish Australia’s place in the world as a free, fair and caring country and human rights leader. Read up on our election briefing, Human Rights Agenda for the Next Australian Government (2022).

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