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Labor's plan to protect and strengthen human rights in Australia.

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Labor's plan to protect and strengthen human rights in Australia

Labor's plan to protect and strengthen human rights in Australia

The Labor Party has a philosophy built around equality, justice and giving people a fair go.

This philosophy forms the backdrop for our longstanding commitment to human rights. Whether it is for women, working people, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or others, Labor has stood up and recognised the need to strive for equality and recognition.

Labor has a strong record in Government of helping to negotiate, sign, and respect international conventions.

Labor also has a proud history of introducing legislation to protect Australians from discrimination and attacks on their human rights.

This fine tradition will continue under a Latham Labor Government. Labor has a substantial package of policies to rectify the damage caused by the Howard Government in the last 8 years, and bring them together in a human rights framework.

Labor will restore the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) to the prominence it deserves as our leading, independent human rights organisation.

Labor will value the expertise of the Commission and respect its independence. In particular, Labor will not proceed with the Government's proposal that the Commission must receive permission from the Attorney-General before it participates in litigation. We have a strong view that this requirement threatens HREOC's position as an organisation independent of government.

Labor will also strengthen federal anti-discrimination legislation. Under John Howard the various laws have become inconsistent and confusing. Labor will make it more consistent and ensure it gives Australians the civil liberties protections they deserve.

Further, a Latham Labor Government will introduce protection from harassment on the grounds of age (which the Howard Government recently voted against in the Age Discrimination Act) and sexuality.

In addition to stronger protections for harassment, Labor will legislate to prohibit vilification on the grounds of race, religion and sexuality.

The commitments to introduce protection from harassment and vilification on the grounds of sexuality goes hand in hand with our commitment to undertake a comprehensive review of all Commonwealth legislation (except the Marriage Act) to identify and remove discrimination against same sex couples. Our commitment is to deliver full equality with Australian de facto heterosexual couples.

A Labor Government will also sign Australia up to the Optional Protocol for the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture. In light of revelations about prisoner treatment in Iraq it is impossible to agree with the Government's stance that providing for an inspection regime in places of detention, which would have included Abu Ghraib, would not be helpful.

Labor will also scrap the tender process for Aboriginal Legal Services commenced by the Government. Among other bad policy measures, it does not require Indigenous involvement in these services and it adds an extraordinary new clause giving the service provider the right to refuse service to anyone with a prior conviction. This is a shocking limitation given the client base and the known patterns of repeat offenders.

Labor also has a detailed plan to combat violence against women. Labor sees freedom from violence as a key human rights issue without which women can never hope to participate fully in our community. Tackling this issue needs leadership from the top, and under Labor you will get it.

Labor will establish a National Commissioner for Children and Young People, intended to ensure that those who are often voiceless in national debates will have someone speaking for them and an effective conduit to be heard. It will allow the debate about

children's rights to mature, without constantly being presented, wrongly, as an attack on parents.

Labor has also announced its more humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers. There is a better balance than the Government has

struck between the human rights of asylum seekers and the border protection imperative. Labor will maintain short term detention for the purposes only of basic health, security and identity checks, and we will not detain children in high security facilities. Under a Labor Government, we would also return centres to government control and have them open to independent inspection.

Finally, a Labor Attorney will ensure that the rights of Australians citizens detained overseas comply with basic international standards. This is a role that our current Attorney has neglected. The Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Foreign Minister have never expressed reservations about the validity of detaining Australians in Guantanamo Bay or the military commission process, even although the inadequacies and injustices have been plain for all to see.

Australia has never actively argued for the release, return or charging of our own citizens.

Labor's vision for the future of this country is one where we can aspire to equality and not dismiss it, as our PM does, as a plaything of the politically correct. It is a vision committed to building our community by using the skills and strength of all of us. We will try and build the ethos of fairness and tolerance back into our public institutions and the public debates, and look at positive solutions to bring about positive and inclusive change.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.