feedback on draft National Human Rights Action Plan

Dear sir/madam

Despite recent correspondence from Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) to the Attorney General (see http://a4.org.au/a4/node/375, http://a4.org.au/a4/node/396 and http://a4.org.au/a4/node/438), I just found out today about your draft action plan (see http://www.ag.gov.au/Humanrightsandantidiscrimination/Australiashumanrig...).

Feedback on your draft action plan is due today. My organisation does not now have time nor the capacity to develop a comprehensive response.

The Exposure Draft says "In 1994 Australia was the first country to develop a National Human Rights Action Plan. This Plan was then updated in 2004." Typically, talking about action ensures inaction. Rather than spending decades talking about action, other countries just enact human rights legislation. Australia should follow their example.

Some of my organisation's most pressing concerns over human rights for people with autism spectrum disorders and people with a disability are included in the letters referred to above. My members would really like to see action on these matters, other than simply dismissing the concerns raised.

Your inaction plan mentions:

  • "work to lay the foundations for launch of a National Disability Insurance Scheme that will entitle people with significant disability to the care and support they need". Laying the (metaphorical) foundations is further inaction. Entitlements are not Rights. And the term "significant disability" ensures significant legal vagueness.
  • "investigating ways that the justice system can address the needs of people with a mental illness and/or cognitive disability" ... more inaction (investigation defers action), apparently more focused on "Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori people" and not recognising the massive human rights issues for people with a disability more generally (see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4428.0)
  • "Australia is committed to upholding and safeguarding the rights of people with disability" ... which our previous correspondence shows is simply untrue.

Australia needs laws that protect the rights described in the international treaties that Australia signed. Signing the treaties does not provide citizens with the Right that those treaties describe (the cynical act of signing but not enacting the treaties seems to fool most Australian citizens).

The inaction plan essentially avoids the basic issue that the essential international treaties on human rights are not enacted in Australia.

While your inaction plan specifically mentions a number of disability types, it does not mention nor recognise autism spectrum disorders. The failure/refusal to recognise the distinct needs of people with autism spectrum disorders is an especially effective and detrimental form of discrimination.

yours sincerely
Bob Buckley
A4 Convenor