human rights news & views

First parliamentary debate on decade-old war

As one of the most loyal members of the 'Coalition of the Willing,' Australia has been involved in the present war in Afghanistan for nearly a decade. Under the Australian Constitution, the Prime Minister can declare war without the endorsement of parliament.  Bush's 'deputy sheriff' in the Antipodes, Prime Minister John Howard, committed Australia to […]

Tax havens: Where the cheats have no shame

For all the high-profile anti-poverty advocacy of its frontman, Bono, Irish rock band U2 has copped a hiding from compatriots for tax evasion in their homeland. Though all four band members live in Ireland, the band's publishing arm relocated to the Netherlands in 2006, after Ireland capped tax-free earnings for artists at €250,000.  Meanwhile, ordinary […]

Elders and elder statesmen

There were so many fine moments on Wednesday (immediately dubbed ‘Sorry Day’).  Much joy, much sorrow, much poignancy.  Awe at the extraordinary well of generosity evident in Aboriginal Australia.  Stolen survivor Archie Roach singing his incredibly moving ‘Took the Children Away‘ in Melbourne, an award-winning song that pre-dates the Bringing Them Home report, at a […]

Grudging Opposition dampens ‘Sorry Day’

What a great day.  Australia has apologised to the Stolen Generations.  Prime Minister Rudd, in the presence of the new parliament, most surviving former Prime Ministers, and about 100 survivors of the Stolen Generations, delivered an apology that acknowledged the "profound grief, suffering and loss" caused by successive governments.  He did not presume to ask […]

Australian parliament’s apology to Stolen Generations

Watch tomorrow’s historic apology live online at 8:55am, Canberra time.  Find your time zone here.   [Spoiler alert!] Here’s the text of the apology, released today.  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to say:  "Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past […]

Pay compensation, Australia

Debate continues as to whether a national apology to the Stolen Generations will expose the government to compensation claims by survivors.  Or whether wording the apology in a certain way can limit that exposure (as the government claims).  Surely, this is to miss the point.  If compensation is owed, it should be paid.  Justice demands […]

Australia awaits apology

Australia awaits with anticipation next week’s long-overdue apology to the survivors of the Stolen Generations, their families and descendants.  This landmark step towards reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is something the previous Prime Minister, John Howard — that formidable opponent of human rights — conspicuously failed to do, despite the 1997 Bringing Them Home […]

A new champion for children

The United Nations has sharpened its focus on combating violence against children with the creation last month of a new Special Procedure.  This independent world expert will be called Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children. The job of this Special Representative, for an initial term of 3 years, will include maintaining international […]

No more Nestlé

It's International Nestlé-free Week. Time to swear off Nescafé, Milo (*gasp*), Butter Menthol and Nestlé chocolate, yoghourt, frozen dinners and goddam Cheerios and find ethical alternatives. Sometimes a lack of joined-up thinking allows people who care about human rights (whole NGOs, in fact) to drink Nescafé. Or maybe they aren't familiar with the world's longest-running […]

Tongan police & military abuses documented

Some 700 people were arrested in the South Pacific nation of Tonga last year following riots on 16 November. Arson and looting on the main island of Tongatapu caused extensive damage to the capital Nuku’alofa and beyond. A preliminary human rights report issued shortly after the crisis documented violence and other abuses by police and […]