Australian Lawyers for Human Rights rebut attack by Tony Abbott on individual rights and call for Human Rights Act

“The Prime Minister’s recent denigration of human rights and human rights lawyers is very concerning for a number of reasons” says ALHR President Nathan Kennedy, “and confirms to me the urgent necessity for an Australian Human Rights Act.”

“The ultimate purpose of democratic law is the protection of the rights of the individual. The reason we have a Parliamentary democracy under the rule of law is to protect the individual rights of every one of us. By choosing that system, as a society we recognise that individuals are not perfect, and that the rule of law is more likely to produce fair and consistent outcomes that respect individual rights. In implying that his government will not respect some individuals’ legal rights, the Prime Minister is putting himself and his government above the Parliament, beyond the reach of the will of the people.  This is completely undemocratic.”

“Our entire social structure is based on the protection of individual rights through Criminal, Civil, Administrative and Business law.  Take away the rule of law and the whole structure collapses,” says Nathan Kennedy.

“Human rights” says Mr Kennedy, “are not some external imposition unwillingly “succumbed” to by governments, but world’s best practice for protection of individual rights. The Prime Minister’s comment shows, at best, ignorance of the contribution to peace, security and personal liberties made by international human rights conventions and at worst, a wholesale disregard for an entire body of international law and the many talented people who have devoted their lives to the realisation of human rights for all peoples.”

“In Mr Abbott’s own language, Australia was once a ‘team leader’” notes Mr Kennedy “in establishing international human rights law after WWII to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust could not happen again in a civilised world.  But today we are alone amongst democracies in not having every person’s human rights protected by law. This is why Mr Abbott is the only leader of a modern democracy with such retrograde ideas.”

“Such a perilous attitude toward the universality of human rights on the part of our Prime Minister serves” says Mr Kennedy, “as a stark reminder of the urgent necessity for an Australian Human Rights Act.”

“Where an Administration seeks to side step human rights standards in order to fulfill its political or economic programme, alarm bells ring loudly”, says Nathan Kennedy, ”for such action attacks not just law but the entire basis of our society, the manner in which the individual is regarded and treated.”

“Abbott’s statement and the behaviour it purports to justify represent an attitude that seeks to set back Parliamentary Democracy in Australia and return us to the pre-parliamentary days of hierarchical rule by personal whim, justified by belief in a supposedly superior personal morality” says Nathan Kennedy.  “It is clear we now live in a period where we cannot rely on our government to respect the rule of law, natural justice, procedural fairness or long established human rights.”

“An Australian Human Rights Act would protect those who are most vulnerable when governments chose to turn their backs on long established legal principles that, until recent years, have been a curb on the excesses of government,” stated Mr Kennedy. “We urgently need a Human Rights Act”.


Media Contact: Nathan Kennedy, President

M: 0417 267 143 E: