Refugee advocates shout slogans as they protest at the Immigration and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade building in Sydney. Signs read 'Bring them here' and 'Open the borders'.

Pandemic lays bare need for Federal Human Rights Act: Amnesty

To coincide with Human Rights Day on December 10, Amnesty International Australia has launched the 2022 Human Rights Agenda outlining key human rights priorities for whichever party forms government after the 2022 Federal Election – key among these is the need for a Federal Human Rights Act.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have laid bare the devastating consequences of abuse of power, structurally and historically,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said. “These crises may not define who we are, but it has shown us what we should not be. The foundations for a sustainable, post-pandemic society rest not merely on recovery. It requires accountability, human rights, and a reshaping of our relationship to our environment, economy and each other.

These are exceptional times. Exceptional times demand exceptional leadership and Amnesty’s Human Rights Agenda provides solutions to some of the key problems our society faces. 

Sam Klintworth, Amnesty International Australia National Director

“Amnesty International 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 a human rights leader,” Klintworth said. 

Australia played a crucial role in developing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. But Australia today remains the only liberal democracy without overarching human rights protection, and issues of racism, discrimination, children’s rights and the right to seek asylum, among others, continue to beleaguer our society. 

“At their core, human rights are about respecting the dignity of every one of us. Human rights matter because someone’s quality of life should not be determined by factors beyond their control – race, gender, socio-economic background, sexuality or age. The work of government is central to whether and how these rights are protected.

“We encourage the next Australian Government – irrespective of whoever forms it – to ensure human rights are a bedrock on which domestic and international policy is formed.”

Amnesty International’s Human Rights agenda is calling on politicians and the next Federal Government to, among other things: 

  • Legislate a National Human Rights Act to protect and promote dignity, equality and respect for all peoples in Australia;
  • Increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age and stop trapping children in the quicksand of the criminal justice system;
  • Increase the annual refugee resettlement intake to at least 30,000 people; End the system of offshore detention and accept the New Zealand offer of resettlement;
  • Strengthen 2030 carbon emissions target and significantly accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels, including coal and gas
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