Statement at 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Australia
CIVICUS welcomes Australia's engagement in the UPR process.
In our report submitted to the review, CIVICUS examined a number of unwarranted restrictions which undermine the consolidation of a more enabling environment for civil society in Australia. We further articulated several measures the relevant authorities should take to address these barriers to the realization of a more pluralistic civic space.
In our submission, we raised a number of concerns about the climate for civic space in the country. In particular, we underscored that, climate and environmental movements and defenders are increasingly being vilified and criminalised for peaceful protests. We further raised alarm over unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to police raids on independent media outlets and recent attempts to silence whistleblowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act.
As a result of these issues, in December 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor, which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, downgraded Australia’s civic space rating from open to narrowed.
While we welcome Australia's acceptance of recommendations to “Continue to protect civil and political rights for all persons in Australia as well as freedom of expression” we regret its unwillingness to accept a number of specific and targeted recommendations, including:
- Amending national security laws that inhibit the speech of journalists, whistle-blowers and lawyers;
- Repealing laws criminalizing public interest reporting; and
- Ensuring meaningful participation in political and public life for all persons, especially for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We urge the government to drop all charges against whistleblowers, halt plans for legal changes to allow for the deregistration of charities for minor offences and consult with civil society in the implementation of the UPR recommendations.
Civic space in Australia is rated as Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor