“Gone are the days when we could say, ‘How dare Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya criticise Australia’s human rights record.” — Gillian Triggs.
In an impassioned address, Professor Triggs called for the end of offshore detention, branding it “illegal, eye-wateringly expensive and unsustainable in the longer term”.
Blaming both Coalition and Labor governments for the trend, Professor Triggs said that, over the past 15 years, “Australia has become increasingly isolationist and exceptional in its approach to the protection of human rights”.
But, in a sign of improved relations with the Coalition government, Professor Triggs praised Malcolm Turnbull’s national security address to Parliament, saying she was heartened by his emphasis on the rule of law and respect.
“I believe one of the greatest challenges for our political leaders is to ensure that counter-terrorist measures do not diminish our protection for asylum seekers fleeing conflict and discrimination,” she said.
Professor Triggs also appealed to politicians to “avoid the stereotype that Muslims seeking Australia’s protection are potential terrorists”.
This followed a call by Coalition senator Cory Bernadi for the intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees to be suspended or cancelled because of the risk that terrorists could be among them.
“The challenge over the coming weeks and months is to respond to global insecurity and mounting terrorist threats with rational and proportionate measures to protect our borders and security while also upholding the rule of law and our fundamental freedoms,” Professor Triggs said.
Addressing the annual dinner of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre in Melbourne, Professor Triggs also:
- Warned that indefinite administrative detention by the executive is risking being punitive, which would violate the separation of powers
- Accused the Australian delegation to the United Nations of repeating the “profoundly misleading” statement that Australia is the third largest resettlement country within the UNHCR settlement process, “failing to mention that this so-called ‘lawful’ process applies to about one per cent of the 60 million asylum seekers and displaced persons globally”
- Lamented that Australia, as a nation, “turned a blind eye” towards the management of immigration detention centres
- Asserted governments and political leaders have “played on community fears of terrorism and the undocumented entry by boat of refugees to concentrate power in the hands of the executive to the detriment of Australian liberty”
- Repeated her call for a legislated charter of rights to provide “some benchmark against which government actions and parliamentary laws can be assessed”
- Described the decline in the rule of law as “one of the most troubling recent developments”
Professor Triggs maintained one of the most effective safeguards of human rights was the cultural expectation of Australians that our freedoms will be protected.
“We are quick to assert our liberties under the rubric of a ‘fair go’ – a phrase that is as close to a bill of rights in this country as we are likely to get.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-becoming-increasingly-isolated-on-human-rights-gillian-triggs-20151125-gl7zsx.html#ixzz3sdUfCoaC
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