Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

Media Release: 8 January 2013: Send Sodomy Convictions to Buggery!

27/02/2013
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Media Release: 8 January 2013:

Send Sodomy Convictions to Buggery!

The Australian Democrats reiterate their call for state governments to expunge the criminal records of men convicted of sodomy under previous, antiquated laws.

“This is a fundamental civil liberties issue,” Democrats National President Darren Churchill said today.

“Homosexual sexual acts are no longer illegal anywhere in Australia, yet a small cohort of men are burdened with criminal records that can be used to discriminate against them.

“Premiers! Set these men free from the past wrongs done to them!

“We called for these criminal records to be expunged when the UK government magnanimously did so in September last year, yet nothing appears to have been happening in Australia to redress these wrongs.(See:http://www.democrats.org.au/news/index.htm?press_id=6774&display=1)

“I said then: ‘Australian states and territories have an obligation to further redeem the past wrongs imposed by bad laws and enforced by bigots by enacting new spent conviction legislation that erases the criminal record of gay men prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual conduct.’

“This issue remains alive today. It will cost nothing for the states to renounce narrow-mindedness and remedy this wrong,” Mr Churchill concluded.

Media Contact:

Darren Churchill

National President

darren.churchill@democrats.org.au

0412 196 473

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Media Release: Wednesday, 26th September, 2012: Australian Democrats say: Expunge the criminal record of Sodomy

05/10/2012
DARREN CHURCHILL
National Campaign Director
darren.churchill@democrats.org.au
Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: Wednesday, 26th September, 2012:

Australian Democrats say: Expunge the criminal record of Sodomy

State governments must act to redress a long-standing wrong and expunge the criminal records of men convicted of sodomy under previous, antiquated laws, say the Australian Democrats.

“The stigma of a criminal conviction continues to hang over the lives of these citizens, many of whom are now quite elderly,” Democrats’ National Campaign Director said today. “We have unfinished business to complete here.”

Federal law decriminalised homosexual acts between consenting adults in the ACT in 1973 and South Australia was the first state to decriminalise sex between consenting men in 1975; Tasmania the last in 1997.

The United Kingdom is expunging historic convictions for consensual gay sex with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which received Royal Assent on 1st May.

UK hyperlink: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/sep/02/home-office-gay-sex-convictions

“The Democrats’ position on this matter is driven by the essential principles of justice, equality and human rights.

“Australian states and territories have an obligation to further redeem the past wrongs imposed by bad laws and enforced by bigots by enacting new spent conviction legislation that erases the criminal record of gay men prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual conduct.

“We are all diminished by forcing many hundreds of gay men to carry this criminal record burden for activities that are now properly accepted as legal by society.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Media contacts:

Darren Churchill

Tel: 0412 196 473

 

David Collyer:

Tel: 0413 248 193

A speech to the ACT Council of Social Service Community Sector ‘Meet the Candidates’ Forum for the 2010 Federal Election

17/08/2010

A speech  to the ACT Council of Social Service Community Sector ‘Meet the Candidates’ Forum for the 2010 Federal Election: 16th August 2010.

Thank you.

A bit of background about me. In spite of my advocacy for separation of Church and State, I am a practising Anglican – an Anglo-Catholic. For those of you who don’t know anything of Anglo-Catholicism, we have a history of being ‘the Church in the slums,’ ministering to the poor of the inner-cities. So, a social justice angle there.

The last few decades of Australia’s history have led to an increasing level of conservatism in our community. I don’t mean this as a political statement, but as a social comment. It started well before the Howard years and continues today.

The primary result has been an increasing level of selfishness by the well off in our community, and this has moved on into the political arena with a series of both governments and oppositions failing the disadvantaged – and creating a larger gap between the rich and poor.

We should have had political leadership that resisted this pressure and had the moral courage to improve conditions for lower income earners and disadvantaged groups, and as the topic here today “the contest for a fairer nation” implies, it really is time to regain lost ground.

The Australian Democrats have a proud record of being the people’s watchdog in the Senate. We speak for everyone and anyone who needs a voice.   We are committed to fighting for the rights of all Australians and our environment.

We are aware of our damaged environment and depleting water resources, and are prepared to stand up to protect them. We have called for immediate action on climate change. We speak on behalf of the Australian people, seek affordable health and free education, and aim to protect ordinary Australians struggling to pay their bills. We stand against the exploitation and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians and other minority groups.

We fight against discrimination and bigotry. Our long history of being led by strong women has given us the passion to fight for issues often ignored by male politicians – paid maternity leave, affordable child care, reproductive health and free education to name a few.

One of our important proposals in relation to money, is our income tax proposal to increase the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $25,000. A long-standing Australian Democrats position. And I acknowledge the work of my colleague, former Senator Andrew Murray, for his work on this policy.

Thank you.

—————————————————————————————————

The following points were included but not presented due to the tight, two minute time constraint:

Australian Democrats policy

To address some of the points in the contest for a fairer nation document, I want to give some examples of current Australian Democrats policy statements.

Income tax and incomes

The current income tax system is complex, unfair and highly inefficient due to significant churning effects and unnecessary tax concessions. The Democrats plan would improve equity, simplicity and efficiency.

Proposals from our 2010 Income Tax issue sheet include;

· Increase the tax-free threshold from $6,000 to $25,000

· Index income tax rate thresholds to maintain their present value over time

· Remove unnecessary tax deductions and concessions such as FBT for company cars and other salary packaging and negative gearing deductions

Health and Mental Health

A quick selection of points from our 2010 health issue sheets includes;

· A 5-year Capacity Building Plan for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

· Increase the rate of carer payment to 75% of the standard minimum wage and double the rate of the carer allowance

· A national public dental health program that is free for concession card holders and special needs groups, and which includes a full dental check-up and basic dental treatment every two years.

· a national system of community-based mental health centres staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and psychiatric nurses

· coordinated case management for at least 12 months after discharge from mental health acute care

Climate Change and power bills

The science is clear – the world’s climate is changing fast. Greenhouse emissions must be reduced across the economy using a multitude of measures. Both the Stern Report and the Garnaut Report show that indirect costs of doing nothing will be higher than the direct cost of taking action. Increased direct energy costs must be tackled by;

· A carbon tax of $20/tonne until emissions trading commences

· A tax on coal exports of $5/tonne, with the revenue used to subsidise power bills for low income earners

· 6-star energy performance standards for appliances by 2012, 10-star by 2017 and a target of overall energy efficiency of 30% by 2020

· I also want to make it clear that the Australian Democrats are opposed to nuclear power.

Population

The Australian Democrats are not new to population policy. We have for years said that we cannot continue to grow our population at the behest of the development lobby, which is the prime beneficiary of such growth. We have rejected the flawed argument that population growth can be sustained merely by having better urban planning.

Perhaps total immigration rates should be capped?  This would be, however, without any reduction in refuge intakes, in order to meet our humanitarian obligations.   We want an eventual end to the skilled migration programme.  Australia must take responsibility for its own skills training.

Conclusion

Please think seriously about your vote.   Please think of the Democrats, You deserve better.

Democrats release GLBTI action plan

09/08/2010

MEDIA RELEASE: Election 2010: 9th August 2010

Democrats release GLBTI action plan

The Australian Democrats are proud and loud about releasing their action plan for GLBTI people.

Lead Senate candidate for the Democrats in NSW, Fiona Clancy, who is a lesbian, says that GLBTI people would have a real champion in parliament if they put us back in the Senate.

“My first step would be to introduce a human rights charter that enshrines the right of equality under the law for GLBTI people.

“While both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have baulked at recognising same sex marriage, with such a charter in place there would be no need to even have that argument” said Ms Clancy.

Tim Neal, the no.2 Senate candidate in Tasmania and a gay man, attacked laws that effectively entrench discrimination. “It is therefore not surprising to find that approximately 25% of gays aged between 16 and 24 will attempt suicide”.

Gay man, Mark Carey, and candidate for the seat Indi in Victoria, says the party believes it is important to develop a national health plan for GLBTI people.

“The health statistics show that same-sex attracted people are far more likely than heterosexuals to experience homelessness, use drugs, have chronic health conditions or experience depression.

Jen Mitchell, a lesbian and the no.2 Senate candidate in NSW says that the action plan is forward thinking in that it deals with GLBTI people and ageing issues.

“We want residential aged care facilities to recognise GLBTI people as a special needs group so that couples can share rooms together by right and not by fight” said Ms Mitchell.

“Three decades ago the Democrats began fighting in parliament for a fair go for GLBTI people, including the introduction of legislation for same sex marriage. We have a proud history and a strong belief that all Australians have a right to equality under the law,” said Ms Clancy.

Further comment: Fiona Clancy, phone 0451 822 192

Tim Neal, phone 0413 535 502

Mark Carey, phone 0418542070

MEDIA RELEASE: 7th July, 2010: Statement on asylum seekers

07/07/2010

MEDIA RELEASE

7th July, 2010

Statement on asylum seekers

The National Executive of the Australian Democrats has voted to strongly oppose the offshore processing and demonising of asylum seekers and calls on the Gillard Labor Government to:

· Acknowledge that seeking asylum from violence, war, famine, torture and persecution is legal under international law;

· Stand up against the misinformation that the Abbott Liberal opposition is peddling about asylum seekers and not to bow to political pressure to reverse the ALP’s commitment to our human rights obligations;

· Ensure that Australia lives up to its obligations under United Nations Conventions on Human Rights and Refugees;

· Provide an assurance that no asylum seeker will be sent back to an environment that will endanger their lives or result in persecution, torture or other harm;

· Ensure that the process of assessing claims for asylum is open to public scrutiny, including temporary detention of asylum seekers on the mainland for health and security assessment purposes and opening up the detention centres to NGO scrutiny and monitoring of the standards of living and compliance with human rights;

· Ensure the efficient and expedient processing of claims and limiting of detention to a short period whilst health and security assessments are made. Once it is determined that there is no health or security risk, move asylum seekers to community based accommodation whilst their claim is finalised providing financial and case work assistance until an outcome has be reached;

· Ensure a transparent appeals mechanism to ensure procedural fairness to those asylum seekers appealing against the refusal of their claim for refugee status;

· Ensure that those who are found to be legitimate refugees are given adequate financial and resettlement support including but not limited to Medicare and Centrelink benefits, Job seeker assistance and Education and Training support.

Further comment: National President, Julia Melland ph. 0431357585 or Australian Democrats Human Rights Spokesperson, Sandra Kanck, ph 08 8336 4114 or 0417 882 143

Media Release: 30th June 2010: Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

30/06/2010

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 30th June 2010:

Random Drug testing law is costly and flawed, say Democrats

“The Legislative Assembly has failed Canberrans by passing a costly and flawed Random Drug Testing law.” says ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill

The Oppositions’ Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) (Random Drug Testing) Amendment Bill 2009 was rushed through the Legislative Assembly today with support from the Liberals and the Greens, despite the ACT Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs warning that the law would fail a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

“Dr Watchirs has repeated her concerns of two years ago that the legislation will breach the Human Rights Act. But the Assembly has gone ahead and passed this intrusive law anyway. “

“Not even so much as a statement of intent about “road safety” and simply ignoring the concerns of the Human Rights Commissioner. This clearly shows that the Liberals and the Greens are more concerned about increasing police powers than they are about human rights. And the Labor government is weak for not being able to negotiate a better outcome.” declared Mr Churchill

“Mr Stanhope was right to raise Dr Watchirs concerns. But it’s not enough. It is essential that all ACT legislation conform to our Human Rights Act 2004, which both the Labor government and the Australian Democrats have championed as being a good model for similar national legislation.”

“On top of this there is the added problem of stretching already insufficient police resources in order to implement the scheme. There will be no increases in police resources and training despite the time taken to test people and the cost involved, diverting police resources from solving real crime.”

“The law will make a mockery of the rules of evidence by disregarding the level of a drug required for impairment. This is just a facade of trying to appear tough on drugs with no real intention of improving road safety or public safety. Surely, it would be better to utilise police resources in improving the overall enforcement of traffic laws and other laws?” Mr Churchill continued.

“This law should be repealed and should not be re-introduced until there is a proven scientific method of measuring the relationship between different quantities and types of drugs and the level of impairment to driving associated with them for a legislated drug induced impairment equivalent to 0.05 Blood Alcohol Concentration scientifically established.”

“The law must also be written to conform with our excellent Human Rights Act 2004.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

Media Release: 27th November, 2009: Gay Ceremonies Law Still Falls Short of Equality say Democrats

26/11/2009

DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 27th November, 2009

Gay Ceremonies Law Still Falls Short of Equality say Democrats

“It’s a slow road to full equality for Gay and Lesbian people” claims ACT Democrats President, Darren Churchill.

Local media reported last night (Thursday) that the ACT and Federal governments had reached a compromise that will allow gay couples to continue holding ceremonies in front of a civil partnership notary.

“It’s a positive sign that the Federal and ACT governments have now reached a compromise that will allow gay and lesbian couples to hold commitment ceremonies and register their relationship” said Mr Churchill

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction and moves towards greater equality. And this time, at least, it seems that the Rudd government has recognised the right of the ACT to make it’s own democratic decisions. So, in those respects it’s a big step forward.

“However, it still isn’t complete equality. It compromises on this issue. When it comes to the question of equal rights of gay and lesbian people (or any other group of people), compromise denies equality. The ACT government should fight harder for the rights of gay people and for the right to legislate in the interest of all Canberrans!” declared Mr Churchill

“In 1973, the ACT became the first place in Australia where homosexuality was decriminalised when John Gorton’s (1) Bill was passed in the federal parliament following a “conscience vote”. In 1988 another Act of the federal parliament gave the ACT self government. However, the law still discriminates against gay people and still does not give the ACT the same rights of self-determination as the states.”

“It’s time to bring things into the 21st Century by amending the federal Marriage Act 1961 to allow a union between two people of the prescribed legal age to be treated equally under the law with the recognised societal definition of “marriage”(2). This needs to be an Australia-wide situation” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473

(1) Sir John Gorton was Liberal Prime Minister from 1968 to 1971.  He was an independent Senate candidate for the ACT in 1975 (backed by the Australia Party, who merged with the New Liberal Movement to become the Australian Democrats in 1977).

(2) The Australian Democrats made this very point as part of their submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009.

Media Release: 31 July, 2009: Equal Rights for Gay Couples say Democrats

31/07/2009

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DARREN CHURCHILL

ACT Democrats President

Media Release: 31 July, 2009:

Equal Rights for Gay Couples say Democrats

“It’s time to end the discrimination against gay couples” says ACT Democrats president, Darren Churchill

This Saturday will see a series of national rallies and marches in the National Day of Action for Same-Sex Marriage.

“The Democrats believe people in same sex relationships should not be discriminated against because of their sexual preference.”

The Democrats introduced a Private Member’s Bill, the “Same Sex Marriages Bill 2006″  into Federal Parliament in June 2006.  The Bill aimed to reverse the changes that were made in the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which redefined marriage as a union entered into by one man and one woman only. This effectively stopped the ability of the courts to recognise marriages between two people of the same sex, particularly in cases where a legalised marriage had taken place in another country. The bill called for the use of gender neutral language in the Marriage Act, and include a “to avoid doubt” clause, stating that nothing in the Act should be interpreted as preventing same sex marriages.

Legalising same sex unions at a Federal level and removing this form of discrimination against people in same sex relationships will give them the same status and recognition as people in heterosexual marriages or defacto relationships. “It’s time we took that step.” said Mr Churchill

“The Democrats plan to continue to fight this discrimination. Recognition of same sex unions at a federal level will be an important first step in eradicating intolerance towards people in same sex partnerships.”

“I call on the federal government to commit to redressing the laws which discriminate against same-sex couples, and to recognise that all Australians are equal.”

“It doesn’t matter whether a person is gay, straight or whatever. We are all human beings. And in sharing a common humanity, in the name of love, all people have a right to be treated with dignity, respect and equality under the law.”

“Other countries have already taken this important step. It’s time for us to do the same. Let’s move out of this moral shadow-land.” Mr Churchill concluded.

Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

darren.churchill@act.democrats.org.au

Tel: 0412 196 473