human rights news & views

Burma’s election a sham, or worse

Tomorrow's election in Burma will have very little to do with democracy.  Human Rights Watch says: "Only two parties will field candidates for almost every open seat: the military-backed party and the pro-military former Burmese socialist party. Political parties not aligned with the military report that they’re being prevented from campaigning. … Opposition to military […]

Enrol or update your enrolment without delay

Voting is compulsory in Australia, but only possible if you are enrolled to vote. You don't automatically go on the roll when you turn 18 or acquire citizenship.  You have to enrol by filling out a simple form and sending it to the Australian Electoral Commission. Although a national election is imminent, an estimated 1.4 […]

First Central American coup since the Cold War threatens human rights

Before dawn on 28 June, Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya (left) was 'pulled from his bed' in the presidential palace and forced into exile in Costa Rica, still in his pyjamas. That afternoon Roberto Micheletti, of the same party as Zelaya (the PLH), was sworn in for a 7-month term as caretaker President, with elections due […]

Vicki Roach: ‘The Eddie Mabo of electoral law’

While she was inside, prison authorities refused to allow indigenous activist Vicki Roach to give media interviews about her remarkable 2007 High Court Constitutional challenge.  Instead, she wrote a letter to Anita Barraud of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation outlining some of her arguments: "Excluding us from the democratic process while we are in prison, however […]

Medal of Freedom undeserved

The awarding of the highest US civilian honour, the Medal of Freedom, to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard this month (left) was staggering to human rights activists familiar with his record. Even more galling was the same award given to Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe. The Presidential Medal is intended to recognise an "especially meritorious […]

Australia’s political prisoners

A short documentary has appeared on the internet about Scott Parkin, the nonviolent US peace activist who in 2005 was detained in Australia for 5 days and then deported for being a 'direct or indirect risk to Australian national security.'  Greenpeace Australia's communications director, Dan Cass, is depicted describing Parkin as Australia's first political prisoner. […]

Australians’ implied right to vote

The right to vote is universal, but not absolute, according to the UN Committee on Human Rights.  The Australian Constitution reflects that understanding, according to a recent decision of the High Court dubbed "the biggest constitutional law case of the year", with a bearing on this month’s federal election. The Australian Constitution says that parliamentarians […]

Some rights protection in some of Australia, in spite of everything

A little bit of human rights history was made in south-eastern Australia yesterday when the parliament of Victoria passed laws protecting civil and political rights. The Australian Capital Territory has had a Human Rights Act since 2004, but this is the first major jurisdiction in Australia, the first state, to pass human rights legislation. Western […]

A new social contract

Australia is,  I believe, the only country in the world to declare a public holiday in honour of a horse race.  But at the least the Melbourne Cup is a home-grown event and the holiday actually falls on race day (the first Tuesday in November).  Today is a public holiday known as the Queen's Birthday.  […]

The inalienable right to vote

A fine tradition of Australian parliamentary democracy — in addition to compulsory voting, long may it last — is the respect given to all prisoners' right to vote.  Perhaps it is a consequence of (white) Australia's penal history that we don't regard prisoners as less than human.  Whatever they may have done, adult prisoners should […]