Tasmanian Times


Compassion, legislation and human rights

An Australian Constitution enshrining a Human Rights Act could be the answer to prevent our citizens from being left stranded, kidnapped or imprisoned overseas and to give all Australians their rightful protection. The trauma endured by the individual, family and friends during these experiences is immense. The mental and sometimes physical scarring that results will undoubtedly mark these individuals, their families and associates forever. Australian society is also under strain as a result, with strong compassion and empathy felt for those who are suffering.

The current and previous Governments have, at times, been reportedly negligent in their care of our kidnapped citizens or those Australians incarcerated in foreign countries. Nigel Brennan, Schapelle Corby and David Hicks are just three of the well known examples of the multitude of Australians who have had to and still do suffer from illness, injury and destitution, plus the pain of being almost rejected and neglected by their government in their time of trouble. Ransoms may need some form of negotiation or at least guidance from the government and if crimes have been committed, it makes sense to bring the individuals home where they can be rehabilitated. Do these individuals currently have any legislated human rights and what can be expected from the Government?

Violations of human rights do occur to Australians kidnapped and incarcerated overseas, with very inconsistent intervention from our Government. In the most recently publicised case, Nigel Brennan’s kidnapping in Somalia; to raise the necessary money to obtain his release, his family were compelled to sell their houses, organise sausage sizzles and raffles, while a politician with integrity borrowed money and a compassionate private businessman contributed further funding. This is in direct contrast to the treatment provided when a major business is involved as seen in July this year – Rio Tinto’s Mr Hu. In that case, the Australian Government maintained communications with Rio Tinto and the Chinese Government while providing assistance to Mrs Hu. While his issue remains unresolved, Mr Hu has not been neglected by his government, of which the Chinese Government is very aware.

These differing standards, demonstrating a commercial bias in aid provided to Australian citizens, are an indictment of the lack of true compassion in our political leaders – past and present.

At the Tasmanians for a Healthy Democracy forum held in Hobart, 24th November, an active citizen reminded the participants of the almost forgotten Australian Constitution. Panellist and Human Rights Lawyer Greg Barns reiterated the importance and need for a Human Rights Act. With this act enshrined in a revised Australian Constitution, the required legislation would establish rights assisting families to bring individuals back home. This would allow the individuals to be rehabilitated in our reform centres, as in the case of Schapelle Corby and David Hicks, or to be back with their families as in the case of Nigel Brennan. In turn, the government would be required to provide consistent intervention for all Australian citizens.

Educating Australians on the rights of citizenship under a constitution based on compassion and consideration for self and others could make the change needed to protect our citizens and show the world that the majority of Australians really do care.

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  1. Marion Nicklason

    November 29, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I would like to reinforce the point about compassion. Some individuals engage in activities for reasons unbeknownst to others, reasons often much deeper than what is reported in the media and understood by others. Many of us have made decisions that have led to difficult circumstances, some more extreme than others. Judging individuals harshly and leaving them to be abused in prisons or stranded in foreign countries is not an effective solution. Those individuals who are effectively rehabilitated can learn constructively from their mistakes. This provides the individual with an opportunity to progress in life to be more thoughtful of their decisions, thereby influencing their future actions and the subsequent consequences.

    Understanding and consideration of this by others could create a more tolerant, compassionate world.

    Thank you for your comments.


  2. Russell

    November 29, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Re #3
    The Brennan family seems pretty pissed off with the Australian Government so I’d suggest they hardly helped at all.

    The AWB execs paid bribes to Saddam Hussein yet they seem to be getting all the help available from the Government.

    Who said anything about “saving” people, it’s about helping.

    A Human Rights Bill is needed here to protect citizens from their own Government/s, especially those like the Tasmanian Labor Government.

  3. M

    November 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Schapelle was caught with a massive bag of ganja in her luggage and sentenced in accordance with local law. David Hicks was running around Afghanistan waging jihad against a world superpower. Sure he got the rough end of the pineapple but he wasn’t really playing by the rules to begin with. Nigel Brennan knowingly entered one of the most lawless countries in the world and Australia, rightly or wrongly, refused to use taxpayer’s money to pay his ransom.
    Can you remind me what Stern Hu did, that made him undeserving of the assistance afforded to him?

    Is this why Australia needs a Human Rights Act? To protect people from their own stupidity? Are you for real?!

  4. Tomas

    November 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I think this is a case of comparing apples and oranges. Mr Hu was charged with a crime, which resulted in an incarceration. Mr Brennan was kidnapped by bandits who were demanding a ransom. It is unpleasant, but if the Feds had paid the ransom, it would endanger all Australians in somewhat lawless lands. As it stands, the ransom was paid in the usual way, by the family and friends. Who can really say how helpful the Govt was or could be? In addition, not sure an Australian Human Rights Act would assist citizens in any other country where they are subject to local laws, unless some kind of treaty exists. I would imagine that the Chinese Govt or Somalian bandits would really care what we had in any human rights legislation. And I doubt that the latter could include forceable provisions to ‘save’ Australians overseas, any more than currently exists.

  5. Mike Bolan

    November 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    We have a leadership vacuum in Australia. Normally the leader actually cares about the followers – is actually interested in their well being.

    This is not so in Australia, in part because they have all the rights and benefits regardless of citizen problems.

    Keep up the push for something resembling a democracy Marion.

  6. Russell

    November 28, 2009 at 9:55 am

    If you are a celebrity,a politician, a sports star or are a leader in business the Government will look after you.

    If not, you’re on your own.

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