According to Professor Gillian Triggs (pictured), Australian lawyers need to take the human rights issue seriously and be unified towards helping human rights victims get justice.
“The country’s concentration on human rights has been down in this ending year. I call upon all personnel in the legal profession industry to take a more unified and clearer position to effectively offer solutions on the country’s treatment of human rights,” said the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
For the past 12 months, Professor Triggs has been offering her views on the nation’s stance regarding human rights. The AHRC president urged lawyers to make it a priority to challenge and question domestic laws that hinder implementation of international conventions. Professor Triggs said she was against the backdrop of rising executive government discretion and “regressing” human rights compliance.
Speaking to Aussie Lawyer Blog, Professor Triggs said that Australia was simply going backward since there was a declining position of women in Australian society. She went ahead to mention that the country went the opposite way when it came to migration issues. “I would describe Australia as being reluctant in compliance with human rights,” said Professor Triggs.
The professor said that she doesn’t think the legal industry is unified or doing its best in reducing the frequent breaches of fundamental human rights. She gave an example where Australia actively moved away from its international obligations by the recent government changes to the Migration Act. The changes did not favour some basic provisions of the United Nations Convention regarding the Refugees’ Status covered by the legislation.
The worst part of it all is that this resulted in the deportation of people back to their native countries, regardless of whether they were refugees or not.
Professor Triggs said that the growing ministerial powers to give determinations on fundamental issues that directly affected human rights were very disturbing but equally more of an abstract trend this year.
A number of people got detained on Christmas Island using abusive ministerial powers under section 501 of the Migration Act,” said the professor.
Professor Triggs said she doesn’t think the legal profession’s voice was as loud as it ought to be because the bad things were already entering into the system.
She said the people who are asylum seekers were less as compared to the people in detention and visa cancellation cases. In addition, the professor was surprised with the increasing numbers of people in certain detention centres on Christmas Island. “This thing makes me very curious,” she said.
Professor Triggs said more thousands of people got stranded without any clear status just because of issued determinations and the government’s failure to use the discretionary powers.
Professor Triggs said there are approximately 13,000 people who are simply adrift in the community because they haven’t been included in the government’s record.
When asked how she responded to the current hostility she received from some media quarters and the government, the professor said she plans to speak about human rights in Australia and stick to the Commission’s statutory mandate.