[JURIST] The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) [advocacy website] released a report [report, PDF] today urging Australia’s political parties to stop eroding the foundations of Australia’s democracy. The report goes on to say that the foundation of democracy [press release] includes an active civil society, a free press, informed and diverse public debate, protest rights and the checks and balances provided by courts and other institutions. HRLC argues these foundational laws have been consistently chipped away at through the passage of recent laws in Australia. The report states, "However, more than simply arresting this trend, we must use this opportunity to truly strengthen our democracy."
This report was published in the context of several actions taken by the Australian government that relate to human rights. The High Court of Australia [official website] ruled [judgment, text] earlier this month that the country's offshore detention policy for asylum seekers is legal, rejecting a challenge that it violates the Australian constitution [JURIST report]. The challenge was brought by lawyers for a female Bangladeshi detainee who was brought to Australia for medical reasons. Under the controversial policy, those who seek asylum in Australia arriving by boat are detained [VOA report] on the island of Nauru or on the Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The policy has generated outcry from human rights advocates and some senators, who argue that Nauru is unsafe for children, as the ruling is set to allow more than 250 people [BBC reports], including 37 babies, to be deported to detention camps. In addition, the Australian government violated the rights [press release] of former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] when they continued to detain him after a transfer deal with the US [JURIST report].