Campaign Update, Volunteers Needed, NSW Fabian Human Rights Forum


The July 2 report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman on wrongful detention involving 247 people should, if politicians pay attention, provide the final nail in the coffin of mandatory detention outside the judicial system. Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon were by no means the only victims of bureaucratic v iolations of human rights. Hundreds were subjected to similar suffering.

One powerful effect of such an Act would be that government agencies such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would need to ensure that all its processes complied with the provisions of the human rights law. The misery of numerous and extensive wrongful detentions would be mitigated.The New Matilda advocacy committee will seek to discuss this report and its implications for a human rights law with parliamentarians across the board.

The dramatic consequences of the recent failed terrorist bombings in the UK  expose again the absence of the checks and balances in Australia which would be provided by a human rights law. The rollover detentions of Indian born Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef, to allow questioning about the UK events have been meticulously described to the public by the AG Philip Ruddock and federal police chief Mick Keelty. If we had them, the presence of checks and balances in these procedures, such as the UK Human Rights Act 1998 provide in the parallel processes in the UK, would reassure all of us that a potentially innocent individual is not being unnecessarily damaged in the name of national security.

A Senate Committee inquiry into human rights law would be a good forum to consider the implications of these events for a law protecting rights. Our committee is seeking a new round of meetings with relevant members of parliament to urge the immediate reference for such an inquiry to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.    

Many of us have deep concerns about the extent to which the basic rights of remote aborigines will be taken into account as government agents implement the Coalition’s emergency moves to tackle child abuse and other massive problems. The extent of disadvantage exposed by the emergency illustrates the case for considering the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in a future Australian Human Rights Act or Charter. However one judges the emergency actions, it must be clear to everyone that health, education, housing, security and other basics of functional   community life are absent from these tragic communities. A human rights law could contribute to overcoming these deficiencies.  

The New Matilda Human Rights Act for Australia campaign needs volunteers and supporters to take our case into parliament and the broader community. We operate on a voluntary basis and welcome donations to assist with necessary costs of the campaign. Please contact us if you can help, and particularly if you can support us in lobbying all candidates in the lead up to the coming federal election.  

Susan Ryan    
Chair, New Matilda Human Rights Act for Australia campaign



New Matilda’s campaign is focused on securing support for an inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs into the need for human rights legislation in Australia and the form such an act or charter will take.  

To this end we are now seeking assistance from sympathetic organisations and individual supporters for a planned promotional campaign, targeting key parliamentarians and candidates, to raise their human rights awareness and to secure their support for the above-mentioned Senate inquiry.

We  hope to have a new website up and running shortly but in the meantime would like to hear from anyone concerned about the neglect of human rights in Australia who is able to help in the lead-up to the federal election and beyond.

Your assistance, even if for only a few hours each week, is required, across Australia, in any of the following areas:

·                 Contacting targeted organisations by phone or email to seek their endorsement and support.

·                 Undertaking research to identify additional potential supporters.

·                 Liaising with potential supporters in your area including politicians.

·                 Coordinating the activities of other volunteers in your region.

·                 Monitoring the media for human rights related stories.

·                 Helping maintaining our web-site, providing editorial support.

·                 Assisting with planning and running of promotional events in your area.

If you area able to help, or have any further queries please send me an email at  

Peter Frank

National Coordinator, New Matilda Human Rights Act for Australia campaign


Why is the NSW Government against a Bill of Rights?

The ACT had the first Bill of Rights in Australia with Victoria following with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. With Other States investigating a Bill of Rights – Why is NSW dragging the chain?

Moderator: Dr Geoff Gallop, Former WA Premier and President of the NSW Fabians. Speakers include:

George Williams is the Anthony Mason Professor and Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales.

Susan Ryan was the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister Bob Hawke on the Status of Women 1983-88 and the Minister for Education, 1984-87. Susan is currently the Chair of the New Matilda Human Rights Act for Australia Campaign.

Helen Irving was appointed to the Faculty of Law in 2001. She currently teaches Federal Constitutional Law, Comparative Constitutionalism and Advanced Constitutional Law, and is the Director of the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence.

When: for , Wednesday 25 July 2007.
Where: LHMU Auditorium – Ground Floor 187 Thomas Street (Corner of Quay and Thomas) Haymarket

Cost: Non-Fabians $10/$5. Members are free – Please show your membership card to obtain free entry.

Contact: Bookings essential – Contact Simon O’Hara, Secretary, NSW Fabians –

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.