Jyoti Tewari , 27 Apr : Hindus have asked Australia to create a “bill of rights” as a high-priority.Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Australia was one of the few Western countries that did not have a charter of rights.
Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, says that although Australia does have a National Action Plan for Human Rights, but according to a report of Australia Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a statutory organization that reports to the federal Parliament, this “plan however does not adequately identify positive, forward-looking measures to address the human rights issues…”
Rajan Zed argues that Australia human rights framework needs urgent reform. A recent report by AHRC highlights “a lack of constitutional protection against racial discrimination in Australia” and talks about “absence of any entrenched guarantee against racial discrimination that would override the law of the Commonwealth”.
AHRC report further says, “There is currently no requirement that the legislative, executive or judicial arms of the Australian state take human rights into consideration in the exercise of their respective powers… There is no Federal law to address religious discrimination or vilification… Serious acts of racial hatred or incitement to racial hatred are not criminal offences under federal law… Racial Discrimination Act 1975 does not contain a duty on government agencies to promote equality… Without effective control over proposed developments native title and land rights remain a sham… ethnic minority groups are targeted as an obstacle to social cohesion and stability…etc.”
It talks about “difficulties faced by complainants seeking to prove racial discrimination in the absence of direct evidence”, “Commonwealth, the state of Tasmania and the Northern Territory have no legislation criminalizing serious acts of racial hatred or incitement to racial hatred,” “refusal to acknowledge the wrongs and injustices that have been perpetrated upon Indigenous peoples”, “need to entrench non-discrimination in the legal systems of nation States so that it is not vulnerable to political pressures”, “high levels of incarceration of Indigenous people”, “use of ethnic descriptors by police”, critical endangerment of Indigenous languages, limited decision-making influence of Indigenous Australians on issues affecting them, etc.
In this report, the Commission advocated the development of legislation, policies and programs that provide a strong and sustainable social framework that respects and promotes cultural diversity.
Australia has not directly incorporated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; or the Convention on the Rights of the Child into Australian law.
Rajan Zed points out that a legislation is needed requiring human rights like racial equality be taken into consideration at various government levels. Legislative protection is required against religious discrimination/vilification. Battle against racism would need effective solutions, amends, compensation, rights recognition, public education programs, etc., at various levels.
Zed says that Australia seems to be lacking in human rights culture. In order to stay competitive globally, Australia needs to stay at par with developed nations in civil liberties also. Even the banks have charter of "customers rights" these days.
Rajan Zed adds that in addition to various Christian denominations, Australia now has considerable number of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, etc., besides followers of Aborigines traditional religions.
According to US Department of State 2008 reports for Australia, although the Government is secular, each session of Parliament begins with a joint recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. State of Tasmania is the only state or territory whose constitution specifically provides citizens with the right to profess and practice their religion. Constitution does not explicitly provide for freedom of speech or of the press and rights of peaceful assembly and association are not codified in law.
Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksha (liberation) is its ultimate goal.