Slashing funding for human rights watchdog is dangerous for human rights and democracy

Today’s announcement that the Australian Government will slash the Australian Human Rights Commission’s funding by around 30% over the next three years has been denounced by the Human Rights Law Centre.

“These cuts will significantly weaken the Commission and reduce the government’s accountability on human rights at a time when rights are being severely threatened, in particular by harsh migration and counter-terror laws,” said Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser.

The cuts follow the Commission’s inquiry this year into children in immigration detention. The Commission’s inquiry report, which is with the Attorney-General and is yet to be released, is likely to be highly critical of government asylum seeker policy.

“It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the cuts are a politically motivated response to the children in immigration detention inquiry,” said Mr de Kretser.

The cuts also follow damaging funding cuts and restrictions imposed earlier this year on non-government organisations that undertake advocacy such as community legal centres, Indigenous legal services and the Refugee Council of Australia.

“This is a government that is responding to criticism by cutting funding, restricting advocacy and deliberately pressuring organisations that criticise it,” said Mr de Kretser. “These actions are dangerous for human rights and for Australia’s democracy.”

The Commission receives around 20,000 inquiries each year as well as over 2,000 discrimination and human rights complaints. It undertakes public education and conducts major inquiries into human rights issues of national significance, such as its inquiry into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force and its Stolen Generations inquiry that led to the national apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples in 2008.

The significant cuts announced today are in addition to funding cuts to the Commission already announced in this year’s budget.

More information:

Hugh de Kretser, Human Rights Law Centre: 0403 965 340