Image for Why does international condemnation on human rights mean so little to Australia?

Australia’s human rights record is increasingly subject to international critique alongside pariah states like Saudi Arabia and North Korea. On the face of it, this juxtaposition is easily rejected. But strong evidence backs the increasing weight of international sentiment opposing Australia’s record.

Australia may already have pariah status in terms of its asylum policies. So why does its government – and perhaps also the majority of its people – seem to care so little for Australia’s tarnished international reputation?

Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2016 condemned Australia for its “abusive” approach to asylum seekers. It noted widespread criticism of Australia’s outsourcing of:

… some of its obligations to asylum seekers and refugees to poorer, less well-equipped, and unsafe countries such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Human Rights Watch also critiqued Australia’s “overly broad” counter-terrorism laws, the continued disadvantage and discrimination faced by Indigenous Australians, discrimination against people with disabilities, and lack of provision for same-sex marriage.

This report is the latest in a troubling – and mounting – series. In preparation for the 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a number of UN bodies expressed concern over Australia’s human rights position. Remedy Australia noted that Australia has resolved only 15% of complaints upheld against it by UN treaty bodies.

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