Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A law firm specialising in freedom of religion, speech and conscience lays out the far-right's wish list concerning religious freedom legislation?


Make no mistake, what is in play here is an ideologically-driven push back against the 2017 amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 and, an attempt to regain the power to legally discriminate against the LGBTI community.

All three examples given by the Australian Christian Lobby in the following article involves individuals who have allegedly either actively discriminated against a transgender person or made statements to the effect that homosexuality was heretical, blasphemous and evil.

OUT in Perth, 8 August 2019:

The head of the Human Rights Law Alliance has laid out what he expects the government will allow in its religious focused anti-discrimination legislation.

In a recent presentation in Perth for the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), John Steenhof the Managing Director of the organisation, listed a range of examples where he felt people’s religious freedom had been compromised.

One of the examples Steenhof notes is the case of a pharmacists who he says ended up resigning from their job because they felt an equal opportunity commission was going to force them to fill the prescriptions of people who are transgender. 

“Just yesterday I was speaking to a pharmacist who’s quit her job because she’s been threatened with a discrimination claim for refusing a female hormones prescription at her pharmacy for a biological male.” Steenhof said. 

The Human Rights Law Alliance is a non-profit legal organisation that is closely aligned with the Australian Christian Lobby. Steenhof’s predecessor Martyn Iles is now the head of the ACL. 

In a presentation at the ACL’s ‘Not Ashamed’ state conference Steenhof said there are a number of threats to religious freedom in Australia including disciplinary boards, workplace contracts, vague code of conducts and discrimination claims.

Steenhof also cited the example of Bernard Gaynor, a conservative commentator who supports public displays of homosexuality being made illegal. Steenhof said Gaynor had been targeted through New South Wales vilification laws despite him living in Queensland, and the case of Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous.

In his presentation Steenhof said it appeared the government was not interested in bringing in a religious freedom law, something he said Christians would welcome, but could be dangerous as it may “leave the door open towards the progression of towards a bill of rights act.” 

Steenhof said while he had not seen the legislation the government was proposing he was concerned that a religious discrimination act could be problematic if it was not well worded. 

“We want robust and clear definition of religious freedom and how that translates into action that will be protected. 

We want protection for religious organisations, Christians not only individually, but in community…Christian schools, Christian charities, all of these organisation require protections.” 

“We need protections for charities that would hold to man-woman marriage, we need rights of parents – that’s a massive issue that needs to be address and projections.

We need to address the low bar on vilification laws which allows people to pursue Christians when they feel just a little bit hurt or offended.” Steenhof said. 

In July the National LGBTI Health Alliance (the Alliance), the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI) called for stakeholders to commit to a “to do no harm” pledge during the discussions regarding the introduction of a federal Religious Discrimination Act. 

They argue that evidence shows that the structural discrimination enshrined in our nation’s laws exacerbate the impacts of minority stress on LGBTI people, including increased anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance use. 

Nicky Bath, Executive Director said that calls for religious freedom should not be used a licence to discriminate against LGBTI people. 

“The Alliance recognises that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and is an essential part of a liberal, democratic society. We support measures that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religious beliefs or activity, or their secular beliefs or activity. However, legislation for religious freedom should not be used as a license to discriminate against LGBTI people.” Bath said. 

Recent research has highlighted how legislative processes and public debates relating to the rights of stigmatised, minority populations adversely effects our communities’ already poorer mental health, with an increase in psychological distress being evident among LGBTI people during the same-sex marriage postal survey. 

“We are calling upon all Members of Parliament, media, religious organisations and individuals to engage in a respectful debate and reporting around legislating for a Religious Discrimination Act to ensure that the right to practice one’s faith and the right to be free from discrimination are appropriately balanced in a coherent legal framework and do not further marginalise or harm our communities’ health and wellbeing”, Bath said. 

“We also call on the Morrison Government to consult with LGBTI people, organisations and communities to hear directly how this legislation and the ongoing public debates impact negatively on our mental and physical health.” 

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also says there is no need for pharmacists to be given an exemption from discrimination laws, and treating people equally is a big part of their code of conduct. 

“PSA recognises that equality is a health issue, and is a right for all Australians, irrespective of age, culture, religion, sexuality or gender identity.” a spokesperson told OUTinPerth. 

“This is reflected in PSA’s Code of Ethics for Pharmacists, which states that pharmacists have an obligation to respect the dignity and autonomy of the patient, recognise and respect patients’ diversity, cultural knowledge and skills, gender, beliefs, values, characteristics and lived experience – and not discriminate on any grounds, and provide care in a compassionate, professional, timely, and culturally safe and responsive manner.”


Monday, 22 July 2019

What many frail aged Australians can expect if they enter a nursing home - maggots, rotten food and a starvation diet


ABC News, 16 July 2019:


PHOTO: Pictures supplied to ABC investigations as part of a crowdsourcing project on food in aged care. (Supplied)

..Cutting corners


Earlier, a roundtable of three chefs with almost 100 years of experience in a range of aged care services and kitchens between them suggested an answer to why food standards were so poor.

The commission heard the quality of aged care menus — described by one panellist as "the one thing [residents] get to look forward to" — came down to what the facility paid per resident.

For $16 a day, the residents of the unnamed facility Lindy Twyford manages were served salt-and-pepper squid, fillet mignon, and occasional portions of frozen but high-quality produce.

At the other end of the spectrum, a home spending $7 would rely on secondary cuts of meat and mass-ordered vegetables, some of which would be thrown out at the expense of serving sizes.
"You're having to cut corners, you're having to use frozen foods, you're having to use processed foods just to feed residents," chef Nicholas Hall said.
Mr Hall said food costs at some facilities he formerly worked at were inflated by an ordering system beyond supermarket prices, in one instance by as much as 100 per cent.

Chef Timothy Deverell raised concerns about the lack of training to create texture-modified foods, menus that had no input from residents until they complained, and food served on open-air trolleys that was often cold by the time it reached some residents.

Some homes would place food orders using a "restrictive" system in which a drop-down box offered just a handful of options, Mr Hall said.
Facilities would opt for finger food platters because they were "low-risk", cheap, and didn't require a chef.

Some meals would be repeated up to three or four times a week as providers made a bid to reduce costs.
"They're racing to the bottom to see who can feed for the lowest amount of cost," Mr Hall said

Maggots, rotten food


The commission was also told of one "upmarket residential aged care facility" which had a maggot-infested rubbish store between service trolleys and a nearby fridge containing enough rotten food to fill a trailer.

"[I've seen] reusing food that's already been out, served to residents and come back to the kitchen," Mr Deverell said.

"They use that for texture-modified diets."

Mr Hall said food safety audits were too infrequent and services were given advance notice, meaning extra cleaners could be hired to bring facilities up to scratch.

He said nutritionists failed to properly engage with residents and their needs…..

Friday, 14 June 2019

Parents with LGBTIQ children call on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison "to do as he promised which was to govern for all of the people which surely must include the LGBTIQ people"




Media Release
10th June, 2019

Religious Freedom is not an issue - Religious Privilege is a huge concern

After Marriage Equality was achieved, the right wing of the Government decided Christian rights were at risk. A Religious Review was held due to concerns about the rights of Christians.

Mr Ruddock, a conservative and Att. General who was the architect of rewording the “marriage act” to read as “man and woman” to exclude same sex couples, was the Chairperson.

Eventually, after much delay the Review showed there was very little concern for Christians.

However, the government’s paranoia about LGBTIQ people is a great concern to LGBTIQ people and their loved ones.  

Because:
Welfare groups, aged care and hospitals are predominantly run by Religious bodies
Teachers working at Christian schools may be retrenched and students expelled
Businesses owned by Christian individuals or organisations 

May all be given the right to refuse service or care, just because their clients, customers or staff involved are LGBTIQ. 

Additionally, there is the concern of the promotion of hate speech. Christians may not believe their words are harmful, or may not care but the impact of what is said or written can be devastating for the LGBTIQ person and their loved ones. Again any freedom, including freedom of speech should never be used as a tool for abuse. 

The ratio of Christians suffering poor mental health or suicide from hate speech is minimal. However, the negative impact of hate speech, homophobia and transphobia against LGBTIQ people is extremely high.

So, as National Spokesperson for parents with LGBTIQ children, I am calling on Mr Morrison and his team to do as he promised which was to govern for all of the people which surely must include the LGBTIQ people. They pay taxes, contribute to society and vote.
           
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays+ also made a January 2018 submission to Religious Freedoms Review.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Even as it devours itself the Morrison Coalition Government is determined to impose its warped 1950s ideology on women and girls



On that day the Australian Human Rights Law Centre said that the [UN] High Commissioner highlighted the importance of the right to social security and of recognising the value of unpaid care work in addressing women’s inequality.  Yet the Australian Government was steadily undermining its social security system and making life harder for many women.  Currently it was imposing its punitive ParentsNext programme on single mothers accessing social security.

And Mexico and Finland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stated that human rights bodies’ remedies must fulfil the rights of victims, and include adequate, effective and prompt reparation.  Women and girls in humanitarian settings were particularly vulnerable to human rights violations such as sexual and gender based violence, human trafficking and forced abortions. 

After a motion was put forward in relation to Mexico and Finland’s concerns 57 countries including the United Kingdom signed the subsequent statement.

According to SBS News on 11 March 2019  the motion broadly called for greater accountability for human rights violations against women and girls and the statement proposed greater implementation of 'policies and legislation that respect women and girls' right to bodily autonomy'. This included guaranteed universal protection of women's sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education and access to safe abortion.

Australia refused to be a signatory to this official UN statement.


Why was reference to existing law so important to Australia?

The highlighted section in the Human Rights Law Centre news release below gives the answer.

The Morrison Government - dominated as it is by middle-aged far-right men - refuses to open the door to debate on decriminalising abortion in the last three states which still retain a prohibition of abortion in their criminal codes.

Apparently Scott Morrison is averse to any debate on this issue, as in his own high-handed, paternalistic words “I don’t think it is good for our country”.


The Morrison Government has failed to sign on to an International Women’s Day statement at the United Nations calling for access to safe abortions, comprehensive sexuality education and sexual reproductive health.

As recently as last week, in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council, the Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said the number one guiding principle for the Government's time on the Council was "gender equality". Yet when 57 countries came together on International Women's Day to support a motion proposed by Finland and Mexico, the Morrison Government chose not to back it.

Edwina MacDonald, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is attending the session in Geneva, said it was extremely disappointing to see the Australian Government once again fail to live up to its promises at the UN.

“Being able to make choices about our own bodies and access reproductive health are absolutely essential to achieving gender equality. No government can truly support gender equality and human rights without supporting access to safe abortions and reproductive rights," said Ms MacDonald.

In Australia, abortion is still in the criminal statute books in New South WalesSouth Australia and Western Australia. This is a recognised form of sex discrimination in international human rights law. The criminalisation of abortion harms women by making it harder to access safe and compassionate reproductive healthcare.

"The Morrison Government holds a really important role on the Human Rights Council, it should be using its voice at the UN to stand up for the rights of women all around the world. Instead we get hollow words here in Geneva and a failure to lift its game back home. It's so disappointing," said Ms MacDonald.

Australia was elected for a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council in October 2017.  [my yellow highlighting]

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Tweets of the Week



Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Wangan and Jagalingou people's fight against foreign mining giant Adani continues into 2019



ABC News, 25 January 2019:

The United Nations has asked the Australian Government to consider suspending the Adani project in central Queensland until it gains the support of a group of traditional owners who are fighting the miner in court.

A UN committee raised concerns that the Queensland coal project may violate Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial discrimination if it goes ahead, giving Australia until April to formally respond.

Meanwhile, a public interest legal fund backed by former corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald has stepped in with financial backing for a federal court challenge to Adani by its opponents within the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) people.

The Grata Fund, which boasts the former federal court judge as a patron, agreed to pay a court-ordered $50,000 bond so W&J representatives can appeal a court ruling upholding a contentious land access deal secured by the miner.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last month wrote to Australia's UN ambassador to raise concerns that consultation on Adani's Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) "might not have been conducted in good faith".

These allegations "notably" included that members of the W&J native title claim group were excluded, and the committee was concerned the project "does not enjoy free, prior and informed consent of all (W&J) representatives"….

UN committee chair Noureddine Amir in a letter told Australia's UN ambassador Sally Mansfield the committee was concerned ILUAs could lead to the "extinction of Indigenous peoples' land titles" in Australia.

Mr Amir said it was "particularly concerned" by 2017 changes to native title laws to recognise ILUAs not signed by all native title claimants, "which appears to be in contradiction" with an earlier landmark Federal Court ruling.

"Accordingly, the committee is concerned that, if the above allegations are corroborated, the realisation of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project would infringe the rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, rights that are protected under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination," Mr Amir said.

The committee gave Australia until April 8 to outline steps taken to ensure proper consent "in accordance with Indigenous peoples' own decision-making mechanisms".

It asked Australia to "consider suspending" the Adani project until consent was given by "all Indigenous peoples, including the Wangan and Jagalingou family council".

It invited Australia to seek expert advice from the UN experts on Indigenous rights and to "facilitate dialogue" between the W&J and Adani.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety now underway


Commencing in 2016-17 when Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison was then just the Federal Treasurer he cut $472.4 million from Aged Care funding over four years, then followed that up with a $1.2 billion cut over the same time span.

When deteriorating conditions in nursing homes around the country began to be reported in the media and the Oakden scandal came to light in 2017, concerned citizens began to call for a royal commission.

The Liberal Minister for Aged Care and Liberal MP for Hasluck Ken Wyatt was of the opinion that such an inquiry would be “a waste of time and money”.

Once Scott Morrison realised that ABC Four Corners was about to air an exposé on aged care provision he quickly changed his mind and announced the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on 16 September 2018.


The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established on 8 October 2018 by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).

The Honourable Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO have been appointed as Royal Commissioners…

The Commissioners are required to provide an interim report by 31 October 2019, and a final report by 30 April 2020…
The Commissioners were appointed to be a Commission of inquiry, and required and authorised to inquire into the following matters:
a.    the quality of aged care services provided to Australians, the extent to which those services meet the needs of the people accessing them, the extent of substandard care being provided, including mistreatment and all forms of abuse, the causes of any systemic failures, and any actions that should be taken in response;
b.    how best to deliver aged care services to:
                i.        people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities, including younger people; and
               ii.        the increasing number of Australians living with dementia, having regard to the importance of dementia care for the future of aged care services;
c.    the future challenges and opportunities for delivering accessible, affordable and high quality aged care services in Australia, including:
                i.        in the context of changing demographics and preferences, in particular people's desire to remain living at home as they age; and
               ii.        in remote, rural and regional Australia;
d.    what the Australian Government, aged care industry, Australian families and the wider community can do to strengthen the system of aged care services to ensure that the services provided are of high quality and safe;
e.    how to ensure that aged care services are person‑centred, including through allowing people to exercise greater choice, control and independence in relation to their care, and improving engagement with families and carers on care‑related matters;
f.     how best to deliver aged care services in a sustainable way, including through innovative models of care, increased use of technology, and investment in the aged care workforce and capital infrastructure;
g.    any matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) or that [the Commissioners] believe is reasonably relevant to the inquiry.

A preliminary hearing was held in Adelaide on 18 January 2019.

At this hearing the Commissioner Tracy stated in part:

The terms direct our attention to the interface between health, aged care and disability services in urban, regional and rural areas. These issues necessarily arise because of Australia’s changing demography. We are also required to look at young people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities and do our best to deliver aged care services to the increasing number of Australians living with dementia. Part of our task is to examine substandard care and the causes of any systemic failures that have, in the past, affected the quality or safety of aged care services. We will consider any actions which should be taken in response to such shortcomings in order to avoid any repetition. This will necessarily involve us in looking at past 25 events. There have been a number of inquiries which have considered matters that, in certain respects, fall within our terms of reference. We are not required by the Letters Patent to inquire into matters which we are satisfied that have been, is being or will be 30 sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation or a criminal or civil proceeding. As a general rule, we do not intend to re-examine matters which have been specifically examined in previous inquiries. We do, however, expect to examine the changes and developments which have followed previous inquiries, as well as the extent to which there has been implementation of recommendations from those inquiries. Where we have different views, they will be made known.

According to ABC News on 18 January 2018: Out of almost 2,000 Australian aged care providers invited to shed light on the sector ahead of the royal commission, only 83 have been forthcoming with information, the Adelaide inquiry was told.

The Guardian on 18 January reported: Counsel assisting Peter Gray said the commission had received more than 300 public submissions since Christmas Eve and 81% concerned provision of care in residential facilities, with staff ratios and substandard care the most common themes. The federal health department has also passed on 5,000 submissions it received before the commission’s terms of reference were set.

Interested members of the public can still make submissions as the Royal 
Commission will continue to accept submissions until at least the end of June 2019.

Details on how to make a submission can be found here.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Proposed Religious Discrimination Act looks a lot like PM Scott Morrison appealing to his 'base' ahead of the May 2019 federal election


On 13 December 2018 Australia's 'interim' Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook, Scott Morrison, announced that his government intended to protect religious freedom in Australia and to protect the rights of Australians to be themselves by way of a new piece of legislation titled the Religious Discrimination Act.

Not a line of this legislation appears to have been put down on paper to date even though it is apparently expected to come before the Australian Parliament in the seven days or so it will sit before the May 2019 federal election.

One would have thought that religious freedom and diversity of faith was thriving in Australia given over 127 different formal manifestations of religious faith/spirituality exist in its cities, towns and villages without ongoing overt community discord or institutionalised discrimination.

Even former Liberal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock concedes the Religious Freedom Review he led found little evidence that discrimination is occurring in Australia. That lack of hard evidence at population levels mean that government cannot reliably assert that religious discrimination as a form of harm is an existing problem requiring the 'solutions' it is proposing - such as Prime Minister Morrison's idea of a religious freedom commissioner to handle religious discrimination complaints, even though it was not recommended by the review

As religious faith holds no interest or importance for up to 15 million of the est. 24.6 million Australians alive today, I'm sure a good many voters are wondering what the fuss is all about and why Morrison is intent on protecting against nebulous future enemies which do not yet exist and whose probability appears to exist in his mind and nowhere else

After all, the Australian Constitution bars the creation of a state religion as well as barring laws prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, organised religions receive tax exempt status, education in faith-based primary & high schools is funded by the federal government and, discrimination in employment or occupation on the basis of religion is already unlawful under federal legislation. 

One has to suspect that the real intention of this new Religious Discrimination Act is to justify and codify discrimination by organised religions against individuals and groups in the wider secular society.

BACKGROUND



*61% of Australians say religious faith/spirituality plays no part/little part in their decision making;
*21% don’t believe there is any God/spirit/life force;
*a further 14% used to believe in God but don’t anymore;
*38% never pray or meditate;
*47% never attend a religious service; and
* only 18 % of Australians regularly attend religious services.


Friday, 14 December 2018

Human Rights 2018: when forgetting is not a good thing



The Guardian, 11 December 2018:

As those who lived through two world wars die out, taking with them real memories of past atrocities, the world is back on a path to self-destruction, a leading authority on torture has warned.

Human rights are facing a “worrying backlash” from a global community that has failed to “learn the lesson” of the past.

Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, said the global community had become “complacent” in the face of injustice because the world no longer understood why human rights should be protected or what the world would look like without them.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 70 years after world war two, when the last witnesses of past atrocities are dying away, we start to see human rights being questioned on a broad scale,” said Melzer, a Swiss law professor who assumed the UN post in 2016.

“The generation that had the answer is almost gone. They left behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for us, but it is as if its message is no longer understood, and it looks like we will have to learn the same lesson the hard way again.”

Melzer’s comments mark the 70th anniversary of the declaration in a week when world leaders are in an uproar over global migration flows, with numerous countries backing out of a UN compact in Marrakech seeking to make migration a universal right.

Melzer pointed to the grave human rights violations occurring in key migration routes as proof that the global community now considers human rights a “luxury” instead of a right….

The first major dismantling of human rights began after 9/11, said Melzer, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the time. He said that the “global war on terror” saw the use of torture increasingly tolerated in public opinion as well as in mainstream entertainment….

The global erosion of human rights is just one crisis among many, said Melzer, from migration and the environment to financial instability, energy, poverty and cyber security. Rather than provide solutions to these problems, however, world leaders are instead “promoting regressive policies focused on national interests and decrying human rights as a threat to national sovereignty and security”.

Melzer added: “We must understand that, in a world full of globalised challenges, human rights are the very basis for our safety, stability and prosperity, and that any significant erosion of these rights will cause the collapse of our modern civilisation.