Democracy and rights
The human rights situation is generally good. Australia is known for being a democracy and a rule of law. Political and civil rights are respected and the media has an independent position and can operate freely. At the same time, the government has received sharp criticism both within the country and from the outside world for the treatment of asylum seekers.
Australians can express their views without hindrance, confess to any religion and vote for the party they want. It is compulsory to vote in elections that are judged to be correct and fair by independent experts. Both freedom of assembly and association exist, although these rights are not statutory.
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But there are nonetheless groups that are disadvantaged in political life and society at large. Aborigines are still the most disadvantaged group in the country from all points of view (see Labor Market and Social Conditions). There are few Aborigines in politics. According to a 2017 report by the UN Commission on Human Rights, the government has failed, despite a number of different measures and new guidelines, to respect the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to participate in society under different conditions as other residents.
More recently, there has been extensive debate about women’s position in politics; many female members of Parliament have reported harassment, threats and violations.
Although Australian society is free and open, the government has in recent years passed laws aimed at preventing terrorism and other crime that increase police surveillance and security services.
Human rights organizations have argued that a law from 2017 that requires telecommunications companies to store so-called metadata for two years can undermine civil liberties. Another law from 2018 makes it mandatory for IT companies to provide access to coded communications. Among other things, the law has been criticized for not being sufficiently specific and for the high penalties for companies that do not comply with the requirements.
Abbreviated as AUS by Abbreviationfinder, Australia has also received strong criticism from domestic and international human rights organizations for its refugee policy. The government has refused to allow boat refugees who want to seek asylum to stay in the country. Instead, they have been sent to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where abuses have occurred and conditions are difficult (see also Population and Languages). UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has also criticized Australia for brutally sending refugees back to countries where they are at risk of torture or other cruel treatment in brutal forms contrary to the Refugee Convention.
Corruption is not a big problem in Australia. There is extensive anti-corruption legislation that works well. Australia is among the countries that have the least corruption problems under Transparency International (see ranking list here).
Freedom of expression and media
The media is independent and conducts an active audit of the authorities and authorities while there is a diversity of reporting. An independent federal agency reviews the content of radio, television and the Internet. Australia has strict rules against violence in television and a certain number of Australian programs must also be included in the offer.
However, some analysts believe that the strong ownership concentration in the media world may in the long run be a threat to investigative, free journalism. A few large groups have collected a large part of the newspaper and magazine publishing, the book publishers and the ether media.
There is no specific legislation that guarantees freedom of expression, but according to the Supreme Court there is an implied protection for this nonetheless in the constitution.
Press freedom organizations such as Reporters Without Borders have criticized the country’s harsh laws on slander. Terrorism and security laws have also been highlighted as an obstacle in the journalistic work.
Australia has deteriorated its ranking by two places in Reporters Without Borders annual list of press freedom in the countries of the world (see ranking list here).
There is a law from 1982 that gives all citizens the right to access official documents and a special independent institution oversees this.
There are no restrictions on freedom of the internet and no censorship exists.
Judicial system and legal security
Australia’s legal system is independent and there is strong protection for legal security. The courts are independent, impartial and work well.
The conditions in the country’s prisons generally conform to international rules, although overcrowding has created some problems.
Aborigines are heavily over-represented in prisons.
New marine nature reserve
Marine areas around the coast corresponding to about 2.3 million square kilometers are declared protected from overfishing and oil recovery in a new law on marine nature reserves.
Peace operation in East Timor ends
Australia ends peace operation in East Timor after six years; the last soldiers will be returned by April 2013. However, the Australian Government has promised continued defense cooperation with East Timor as well as support for the country’s police.
Victims of abuse must be compensated
The government apologizes for not doing more to stop abuses that have occurred within the country’s military forces. More than 1000 reports of sexual, physical and psychological abuse have been received in connection with a survey of the past six decades. An investigative group led by a judge shall investigate each report and compensation shall be paid to the victims.
Gillard in the game against opposition leaders
In a parliamentary debate, Prime Minister Gillard calls opposition leader Tony Abbott sexist and woman-hating because of his hostile comments, and her emotionally charged speech is attracted international attention (see her post here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeGeooZOUdE).
Refugee camps are approved
Parliament’s two chambers approve the opening of a refugee camp on the Papuan island of Manus (see also Papua New Guinea, Current Policy).
Negotiations on cooperation with Indonesia
Formal negotiations between Australia and Indonesia begin an economic partnership, CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), which includes trade, economic cooperation and investment.
Five dead Australians in Afghanistan
Five Australian soldiers are reported to have been killed in Afghanistan on August 29.
Coordination with the EU
Australia agrees with the EU on the coordination of markets for greenhouse gas emissions trading (see Natural Resources and Energy).
Report on boat refugees
An independent expert group appointed by Prime Minister Gillard to propose solutions to the boat refugee problem presents a report. Among other things, it is proposed to set up camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea where people can seek asylum in Australia. These were introduced by the conservative Howard government in 2001. The group also wants a new refugee reception agreement to be established with Malaysia. The proposal to start refugee centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea is supported by Parliament. A few days later, the government announces that the number of refugees received will increase to 20,000 per year. This is 45 per cent more refugees than before and the largest increase in 30 years.
Carbon tax law comes into force
The controversial carbon tax, which penalizes those who are responsible for large emissions, comes into force. While Prime Minister Gillard defends it as necessary for the climate, the opposition claims it will mean lost jobs and higher prices.
Boat accident starts refugee debate
When a boat with refugees drops off Christmas Island and some 70 people die, the debate on Australian refugee policy gains new momentum (see Current Policy). Survivors after the accident are shipped to a facility on Christmas Island. Hundreds of boat refugees have drowned in recent years as they tried to get to Australia.
Sexual abuse within the army
A report on widespread sexual abuse and harassment within the army is causing great stir. The study documents 850 cases of abuse against young soldiers, sometimes no more than 13 years old, from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Aborigines are attributed to Lake Eyre
The federal court grants Aboriginal rights to an area of about 70,000 square miles in South Australia, including the country’s largest lake, Lake Eyre.
Australian troops leave Afghanistan
Prime Minister Gillard announces in mid-month that the Australian force in Afghanistan will be withdrawn in 2013, that is, the same year the parliamentary elections are to be held in Australia.
Gillard wins Labor vote
On February 23, Prime Minister Gillard announces a vote until February 27 among Labor MPs on who will lead the party. Rudd announces shortly thereafter that he will stand as a candidate in the vote. Gillard emerges victorious from the fight as she gets 71 votes against Rudds 31.
Leadership battle within Labor
On February 22, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigns, citing that he no longer has the Prime Minister’s confidence. The media talks about a leadership battle within Labor. Rudd has previously made statements that he does not believe Gillard can win the 2013 election.