Australia’s views on climate crisis ‘backward’: Human Rights Watch

According to a renowned human rights organisation, Australia’s “backwards” attitudes on global warming and asylum seekers are becoming increasingly unacceptable to the rest of the world.

Despite its general record as a strong, multicultural democracy, Human Rights Watch released its annual world report on Thursday, finding “severe human rights violations” in Australia.

Human Rights Watch focused for the first time on climate change, an area where Australia was deemed to be notably lacking. The research slammed Australia’s per capita emissions, which are among the highest in the world, as well as its massive fossil fuel exports and tax incentives for fossil fuel businesses, which have risen by 48 percent since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The report criticised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those who were transferred to Australia and held in hotel rooms for long periods of time with “restricted access to sunlight, space to exercise, and fresh air.” The short-term incarceration of tennis star Novak Djokovic has brought the suffering of asylum seekers to the attention of the world.

Indigenous incarceration rates in Australia were also denounced, with Indigenous people accounting for 30% of all adult prisoners despite making up only 3% of the general population. At least 11 Indigenous people died in custody last year. The report revealed that Indigenous children are 17 times more likely than non-Indigenous youngsters to be imprisoned, and it chastised Australia for disregarding recommendations from 31 UN member nations to raise the age of criminal responsibility to the internationally recommended minimum of 14.

The severe travel restrictions imposed during the outbreak were also brought up. According to the report, the decision to bar Australians from coming home was a “punitive attitude to travel” that divided tens of thousands of Australian families.

Human Rights Watch drew attention to the disparate treatment of Australians residing in India following the wave in May of last year, compared to those living in the United States and the United Kingdom following similar increases.

“Strict and inflexible domestic travel restrictions within Australia have separated families and rendered others unable to return home,” the report stated. “Individuals have been denied permission to travel across state borders for compassionate reasons or medical treatment, despite their willingness to abide by quarantine restrictions.”

Sophie McNeill, a researcher with Human Rights Watch Australia, said the world was becoming baffled as to why Australia took such “backwards” positions on matters like climate change and asylum seekers.

“The rest of the world and Australians are increasingly saying, ‘This is unacceptable; we can’t go on like this,'” McNeill told the media.

“With Australia’s climate policy, we’re now seeing a rising realisation throughout the world of how retrograde Australia is on this.” The Djokovic situation has also reminded us that we have a same attitude about asylum seekers.”

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Australian institutions are failing to protect the academic freedom of students who speak out about China and academics who criticise the Communist Party. As a result, they were “susceptible to harassment and intimidation by Chinese government sympathisers,” according to the investigation.

“Chinese pro-democracy students in Australia change their behaviour and self-censor to prevent threats and harassment from classmates, as well as being ‘reported on’ by them to authorities back home,” according to the article.

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