Last year Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland (Labor Party) addressed students at Melbourne Law School on the rule of law and human rights in Australia and urged them to contribute to the introduction of a civil rights bill.
He lauded several key points in Australia’s rule of law and its alleged respect for human rights.
• our democratic system of responsible government
• the separation of powers between the Parliament, Executive Government and the Judiciary
• a professional judiciary whose independence is constitutionally protected and who hold all accountable for upholding the law
• an independent media
• an accountable, apolitical public service, and
• a comprehensive administrative law system, and
• relatively sophisticated, albeit fragmented, anti-discrimination laws and also agencies, such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, who play an important part in advancing and protecting human rights.
Mr McClelland’s comments are completely unfounded, and bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to Australia’s true state of affairs. Over the last 20 years Australia’s governments have become increasingly irresponsible, unreasonable, unaccountable and decidedly undemocratic.
Cronyism and nepotism have crept into government long ago and are now the order of the day and a way of life. And this of course includes important positions like those of the State Governors and the Governor General’s position in Canberra, which are highly politicised and have been rendered totally ineffective.
Erik Paul, Honorary Associate in Sociology at Macquarie University, Sydney wrote an accurate and troubling account of the political situation in Australia today with his book Little America Australia, the 51st State. He writes:
“Labor has lost its sense of purpose and no longer stands for social justice embedded in a process for greater political equality for all its citizens. The party has moved to the centre right and in many critical areas is indistinguishable in its policies from the conservative coalition’s agenda. In Australia’s market democracy politicians are entrepreneurs who deliver political goods to the highest bidder. The suppliers occupy privileged positions in society because they maintain a monopoly situation in supply of such goods. It follows that social justice will not be served if the main political parties do not differ in any meaningful way in what they propose to do. Both Labor and Liberal parties have been captured by neoconservative interests and offer essentially the same menu of neoliberal policies to manage the economy and society”.
There is no separation of powers between Parliament, Executive Government and the judiciary which act as one gigantic, very powerful and oppressive political force. Party politics have permeated every nook and cranny of government. The party interest is held most important and the deciding factor, not what is right or what is in the public’s best interest and long term future and well-being. All the important decision-making posts, including NGOs are filled with political favourites and trusted party hacks.
The Australian government persists to this day with the medieval practice of appointing the judiciary despite strong criticism of that practice. Political appointment of the judiciary has no credibility or transparency and must be strongly condemned.
Allegations of judicial corruption and obstruction of justice when they occur are simply swept under the carpet. Anti corruption and misconduct commissions specifically established to counteract corruption and misconduct only investigate complaints referred to them by Cabinet, not complaints referred to them by aggrieved members of the public, contrary to their charter of services.
All the Commissioners are political favourites. The legal industry treats members of the public with contempt and needs to be reminded to hold all accountable for upholding the law, respect human rights and citizens and the oft mention rule of law.
Australia has long become a ”light weight democracy,” partly due to government defamation laws and growing fascist style restraint of the media which are not independent. Journalists refusing to divulge their sources not infrequently are charged with contempt of court, threatened with fines, and even jailed.
Australian press freedom has sunk to a low where it is now in 35th place on the world index of press freedom compiled by the international media watchdog, Journalists Without Borders. That ranks Australia equal with the third world African nation of Mali and behind Bosnia and Bolivia but just ahead of El Salvador. Interestingly New Zealand does considerably better at 19th place. This suggests Mr McClelland’s claim of an independent media is untrue.
Queensland only has one newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch and about four years ago a Spanish company, Global Intertrade http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1156139.htm wanted to open a newspaper in Queensland. The public were quite excited about the prospect of an alternative newspaper in Queensland. A contemporary newspaper which would actually be able to report the things people really need to know and want to talk about. A paper which would be able to provide a historic record of our time instead of only sensationalism and infotainment. But government immediately rejected the idea. Australia’s major media are an oligopoly owned by the trusted Murdoch, Packer, and Fairfax empires.
Foreign ownership has never worried the government before. Australia is in fact largely foreign owned, and much needed and long overdue competition would have been very much in the public’s interest. On balance, many of Australia’s biggest companies, large tracts of lands and many of Australia’s iconic brand products like Arnott’s biscuits and Vegemite are foreign owned.
According to Channel 7 news in 2005 Australia’s economy was 70% foreign owned and 72% of that is US investment. Public utilities increasingly are being sold off to the highest bidder, often foreign firms, at an alarming rate and to the public’s detriment.
The role the mainstream media plays in suppressing details of gross social injustices and political corruption cannot be underestimated.
Corruption and gross social injustices “is aided by a conspired silence of the British media, failing in their public duty as eyes and ears of the public, to investigate and report Gross Social Injustices brought to their attentions objectively. Instead apathy, journalistic laziness, corporate media greed and excessive monopolistic control in an environment of headline driven news media culture, has resulted in little investigative journalism and coverage of news worthy public interest matters”... Campaign for Truth and Justice http://www.ctjnet.co.uk/
MediaLens says “we are convinced that the increasingly centralised, corporate nature of the media means that it acts as a de facto propaganda system for corporate and other establishment interests. The costs incurred as a result of this propaganda, in terms of human suffering and environmental degradation, are incalculable”. www.medialens.org
The Australian public service is in fact highly politicised and cannot in any way be described as “apolitical!” Growing political corruption across the public sector increasingly coming to public notice is deeply concerning and affects Australians on a daily basis, as people cannot access urgently needed services on equal terms.
The 1987-1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry into Police corruption in Queensland uncovered a web of public sector corruption, little if anything has changed since then. Cost of cleaning out the Moonlight State http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,21716399-2702,00.html
Former Labor Party powerbroker Graham Richardson, says in his book Whatever It Takes: “You are unlikely to get what you want from politicians unless you bid for their services. Your influence on the political machine depends on the amount of money you offer”.
There is no argument Australia does indeed have a “comprehensive administrative law system”, but most people realise that this is in fact detrimental and not in their best interests. Australia is in fact one of the most over governed and over legislated nations on earth and government is busy constantly dreaming up ever new laws.
Australia has a 3-tiered system of government comprised of local council, state, and federal government. Councils were initially established to provide better representation for citizens in local matters. Unfortunately councils, like state and federal government, are run by an elite oligarchy which consistently ignores the will of the people and consistently denies them any right to political self determination.
All levels of government consistently deny the right to veto detrimental government decisions via citizen initiated referenda, and forget to uphold the civil rights Australia agreed to 33 years ago when it signed the legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1976.
Despite strong criticism the Commonwealth government has always rejected demands for an Australian bill of rights. Forced and unpopular council amalgamation, unpopular introduction of compulsory fluoridated water, and being forced to drink treated sewage are example of the autocratic style of government in the state of Queensland that might not occur under a national Bill of Rights.
While in Opposition, Mr McClelland and the Labor party allowed systematic erosion of fundamental human rights by former Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition to go ahead. It is strange he now urges students to contribute to the introduction of a civil rights bill when in Opposition he and the Labor party were silent on the issue both during their 12 years in opposition and prior to that while they were in government.
Human rights are on the nose in Australia and no political party is troubled by consistent violations of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, The Rights of The Child and The Rights of The Disabled.
Eric Paul further states “effective participation and political equality are further restricted by the preferential voting (PV) electoral system. Preferential voting denies representation by smaller parties, as in the case of the Australian Greens, and minority or special interest groups such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In the 2001 elections 2.2. Million voters or 19.2 per cent of the electorate voted for independent candidates but they won only 2 per cent of the seats. Almost 2 million voters were disenfranchised in favour of the major political parties. Attempts to change the system to a more representative one such as the mixed member proportional system adopted in New Zealand have been strongly opposed by the business community and leaders of the main political parties who see it as a threat to their political power. The political elite is also firmly against giving the electorate the right to a citizen-initiated referendum.”
In little more than a decade, the Howard Liberal and National Party government spent a staggering $ 1.2 Billion on propaganda and on misleading the public. How much money the Rudd Labor government will waste on propaganda remains to be seen.
Despite Mr McClelland’s assertions to the contrary, Australia does not respect its citizens or the rule of law. Its human rights mechanism, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, (hreoNOT) is not sophisticated and does absolutely nothing to advance and protect human rights. It is in fact a totally ineffective politically appointed alibi commission and little more than a disgraceful sham as explained in my article Australia’s lone stance against civil rights bill and how juristocracy enables this and blocks debate http://www.mathaba.net/0_index.shtml?x=616222
Further Mr McClelland’s claim that “we have nothing to hide and much to embrace” is particularly offensive to me and other Australian victims of unresolved domestic human rights abuses.
You can read articles about us and the human rights abuses my son suffered in the following articles. Supreme Court 'orders bullied schoolboy to pay costs' http://mathaba.net/news/?x=572486 Kevin Rudd and Robert McClelland must address judicial corruption http://la.indymedia.org/news/2009/03/225156.php Bullied schoolboy wants Kevin Rudd to address judicial corruption http://www.mathaba.net/0_index.shtml?x=618292
Despite his big speech and all the grandstanding and posturing, Attorney General McClelland and Prime Minister Rudd, a Queenslander, continue to hide and cover up the long standing human rights abuses against my teenage son and the judicial abuse and corruption we both endured in the Queensland Anti Discrimination Tribunal and Supreme Court out of political expediency and to protect Labor party interests. And for absolutely no other reason.
If they have nothing to hide then why have they covered up our complaint about human rights abuses and systemic judicial corruption in Queensland for so very long?
And the oppressive and unlawful costs order against an unrepresented grade 7 student forced to leave school, of over $ 28,000 based on legislation from 1851 rather than the 1976 ICCPR and The Rights of The Child stands ready to be enforced.
I don’t think we have anything to celebrate or “embrace” here! Do you? It is simply scandalous and galling and so is the fact that no one in this country is prepared to stand up for the rights of state abused children because everything is government controlled and people are too scared to say anything out of fear on how it will affect their future and their careers.
Posturing, empty rhetoric, endless political claptrap and spin and constantly trying to pull the wool over our eyes is something Australian politicians are very good at and spend a lot of time on.
The uncomfortable reality and truth of the matter is that Australia is a nation betrayed by its leaders.
Mr McClelland’s reported speech can be accessed at http://www.cla.asn.au/0805/index.php/articles/2008/what-does-rule-of-law-mean-in-australia
-- Jennifer Nash is an Australian citizen and lives in Brisbane, Australia. She can be contacted at email@example.com