Lawyers call on the Australian Government for a policy commitment on Business and Human Rights

February 16, 2016


Media Release: 16 February 2016

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) is calling on the Australian Government to commit to a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights and has provided recommendations for process and content based on a global review of NAPs in other countries.

Chair of ALHR’s Business and Human Rights Group, Amy Sinclair, said: “Unless we take steps to develop a NAP, Australia risks falling behind the global community. NAP processes have been completed, or are underway, in a significant number of similarly-placed countries including the UK, Germany and the United States. In fact, since 2011, NAPs have been launched, or initiated, in nearly 40 countries. ALHR is concerned that the Australian Government has yet to announce a commitment to do this”.

NAPs set and articulate the policy agenda and commitments of a State in relation to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in that country. These principles are directed at both States and companies and provide a global standard for preventing and addressing the negative effects of business on human rights. The Guiding Principles were unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011. It is notable that the Australian Government co-sponsored this resolution.

Ms Sinclair added: “Having a NAP in place is essential for providing certainty, direction and guidance on implementing the Guiding Principles. Australia needs a public policy framework that ensures business respect for human rights and adequate access to remedy for those who have suffered as a result of adverse business impacts. Recent cases of migrant labour abuse, both within the 7-Eleven franchise and Australia’s agricultural sector, illustrate why this area requires urgent attention.”

To progress a NAP in Australia, ALHR has undertaken a global review of NAP development processes and has identified important lessons that can be applied here. ALHR has, today, published its findings and provided best practice recommendations on NAP process and content to the Government.

ALHR is part of a coalition of Australian NGOs, including Oxfam, Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision and others, that initiated calls in late January for the Government to adopt a NAP. Today’s release of ALHR’s recommendations on procedure and content for an Australian NAP represents a follow-on step. “An inclusive and consultative process that considers the rights of the most vulnerable groups in society will be critical”, said Ms Sinclair.

“We hope our report advances the NAP process in Australia, contributes to the development of an effective Australian NAP and, ultimately, results in enhanced human rights protections and access to remedy for those whose rights are violated by business”, concluded Ms Sinclair.


Media Contact: Amy Sinclair, Chair Business and Human Rights Sub-Committee ALHR

M: 0405 317 023      E:


Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) was established in 1993 and is a national network of over 2600 Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and a secretariat at La Trobe University Law School in Melbourne. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.